(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Children's Library | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "Witchcraft in North Carolina"

:CM 



I CD 



IT' ^3" 1 

2— =CT> 1 


i, <o I 


> == == — 1 


— _= 




IU ■»— I 


i"~" -CQ 


"" 


^^^^^M 


CO 









- ■ 9H 





■HHL 



Studies in Philology 



EDITORIAL COlfMITTB 



EDWIN GREENLAW, Managing Editor 
WILLIAM "M. DEY GEORGE HOWE 



CONTENTS 



WITCHCRAFT 
IN NORTH CAROLI 

By 

TOM PEETE CROSS 

Formerly Professor of English in The 
University of North Varolma 



Published Quarterly by 
HE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA 

y Subscription, $2.00 — Single Copies, 75 



■red as second-claw matter, February 3, 1015, at the post-office at Chapel Hi 
North Oarolinai under the act of August 24, 1912. 



altei \ 



E: ' 

, \ . Pi 



Eden 



PAG 



■ ■ ■ ■ ■ 



Milt' 



r 
: lti< 



and Johr 

, 

■ ' - . 



Miltoi 



I 



Susp- 







/ 



Studies in Philology 



Volume XVI July, 1919 Number 3 

WITCHCRAFT IN" NORTH CAROLINA 
By Tom Peete Cross 

o quam 

Credula mens hominis, et erectae fabulis aures! 

The study of popular delusions has far more than an antiquarian 
or academic interest. Its results constitute one of the most fasci- 
nating and instructive chapters in the story of human progress. 
Written history is not so much the record of battles, conquests, and 
legislative acts as of social and intellectual development, and no 
true chronicle of any people can be written until account is taken 
of its popular beliefs and superstitions, as well as of the more 
obvious forces that ordinarily engage the attention of the historian. 
Witch stories are human documents and as such they must be 
reckoned with in any account of the mental temper of a people who 
believe in witches and whose actions are, even to a limited extent, 
ordered in accord with such belief. 

With these facts in mind, the branch of the American Folk-Lore 
Society recently organized in North Carolina has undertaken the 
task of collecting and recording the popular tradition of that state. 
The following sketch, prepared at the request of the society, was 
designed originally to deal with only one of the many phases of 
folk superstition — Witchcraft ; but owing to the heterogeneous char- 
acter of the collectanea submitted, it has in process of time become 
a sort of omnium-gatherum of North Carolina tradition regarding 
magic and supernaturalism. Its purpose is twofold: first, to 
enumerate such items of witch lore as have already been collected 
in North Carolina and to point out their traditional character; 
second, by means of illustrations from the folk-lore of neighboring 

217 



218 Witchcraft in North Carolina 

territory, to indicate what other articles of the diabolical creed 
future collectors may hope to discover. 1 

Faith in the reality of witchcraft is one of the oldest and most 
persistent tenets of the human race. Most of us who think at all 
on the subject doubtless regard the superstition as having originated 
in that highly developed, complicated, and schematized system for 
which scholasticism and the Christian church were answerable 
from the fifteenth to the end of the seventeenth century, but no 
conclusion could be more erroneous. Witchcraft is as old as history 
itself, and its existence cannot be laid at the door of the Catholic 
church or of any other form of religious belief. It " was once 
universal; it was rooted and grounded in the minds of the people 
before they became Christians; and it is still the creed of most 
savages " 2 and of millions of civilized men. The essential principle 
underlying its manifold composition is maleficium, defined by a 
recent authority as " the working of harm to the bodies and goods 
of one's fellow-men by means of evil spirits or of strange powers de- 
rived from intercourse with such spirits." 3 Before the landing of 

'A small amount of illustrative material of a historical or comparative 
character has been added, but it is quite from the compiler's purpose to 
attempt anything like complete documentation except in the case of North 
Carolina tradition. The curious reader may form an idea of the excessively 
voluminous literature of witchcraft from such works as Professor George 
L. Burr's essay on the " Literature of Witchcraft " in the papers of the 
American Historical Association for 1890 (p. 238 ff.). Cf. Proc. Am. Ant. 
Soc, N. S., xxi (1911), 185 ff., Professor George L. Kittredge's article in 
the Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, N. S., vol. xviii 
(1907), Wallace Notestein's History of Witchcraft in England (Washing- 
ton, 1911), and Joseph Hansen's Zauberwahn, Inquisition und Hexenpro- 
zess im Mittelalter (Miinchen u. Leipzig, 1900). Cf. W. H. D. Adams, 
Witch, Warlock, and Magician, London, 1889, p. 378 ff. A mass of evidence 
bearing on the witchcraft superstition in America during the colonial 
period has been published by Professor Burr in his Narratives of the 
Witchcraft Cases (Original Narratives of Early American History), New 
York, 1914. Of. C. W. Upham, Salem Witchcraft, Boston, 1867, 2 vols. 

a Kittredge, Proc. Am. Ant. Soc, xvm (reprint, p. 4, n. 1). Pertinent 
observations on the essentially popular character of the witchcraft super- 
stition are to be found in Sir Walter Scott's Letters on Demonology and 
Witchcraft, London, 1830, p. 184 f. 

■Kittredge, loc. cit. Black Magic (designed to cause evil) and White 
Magic (the purpose of which is to do good) are frequently practiced by the 
same individual. In North Carolina, as elsewhere, a " witch-doctor " may 
be also a witch. 



Tom Peete Cross 219 

the first Europeans on the shores of America, maleficium was prac- 
ticed by the aborigines. 4 It was a powerful force in the lives of the 
African negroes who came as slaves to these shores. 5 It was also 
known and feared by the colonists who migrated thither from the 
British Isles and the continent of Europe. 6 The colonial records 

* The early settlers of Virginia and North Carolina shared the universal 
seventeenth-century helief that the Indians, like witches, worshipped the 
Devil. See John Smith, The Ctenerall Historie of Virginia, London, 1624, 
p. 34. See further Works of Campain John Smith, ed., Arber, Birmingham, 
1884, pp. 370, 374. John Lawson, in his History of Carolina, printed in 
1714, states that the Indians of the new country had a god "which is the 
Devil," and that the old men brought themselves into great esteem "by 
making others believe their Familiarity with Devils and Spirits " (History 
of North Carolina, a reprint of Lawson's book, Charlotte, 1903, pp. 30, 119). 
"These people [the Indian conjurers]," says Dr. John Brickell, writing 
about 1737, "are great Inchanters, and use many Charms of Witchcraft," 
and again, "it is reported by several Planters in those parts, that they 
raise great Storms of Wind, and that there are many frightful Apparitions 
that appear above the Fires during the time of their Conjuration," thei 
latter accompanied by " a strong smell of Brimstone " ( The Natural History 
of North Carolina, Dublin, 1737, reprint issued by authority of the Trustees 
of the Public Libraries, pp. 374, 370) . For evidence from New England, 
see Kittredge, The Old Farmer and his Almanack, Boston, 1904, pp. 108 ff., 
336, 341. 

5 See, for example, the pertinent remarks of Dr. R. H. Nassau, Fetichism 
in West Africa, New York, 1904, p. 274 ff. Cf. Mary H. Kingsley, West 
African Studies, London, 1899, p. 156 ff.; Sir Harry Johnston, Oeorge 
Grenfell, and the Congo, London, I (1908), 35 f., 389 f. 

8 That the colonists brought with them the fundamental doctrines of the 
witchcraft creed instead of borrowing from the Indians or African slaves 
or of developing their system independently under the weird influence of 
their natural surroundings, is easy of demonstration. P. A. Bruce (Insti- 
tutional History of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century, New York and 
London, i (1910), 280) cites the case of one Captain Bennett, an English- 
man engaged in trade with Virginia, who was summoned before the General 
Court at Jamestown because in 1659 he had hanged at sea an old woman 
named Katherine Grady who was suspected of witchcraft. On October 5th 
of the same year Governor Fendall of Maryland, on the complaint of John 
Washington of Westmoreland County, Virginia, ordered the arrest of 
Edward Prescott, the charge being that "ye s'd Prescott hanged a witch 
on his ship as hee was outward bound from England hither, the last yeare." 
Pending the hearing of the case by the Provincial Court, Prescott gave bond 
in the sum of 4,000 pounds of tobacco. On being brought to trial, the 
defendant admitted that a woman named Elizabeth Richardson was hanged 
on board his ship, but protested that, although he was both merchant and 



220 Witchcraft in North Carolina 

of Virginia, whose early history is so closely associated with that 
of North Carolina/ contain a number of references to witchcraft 
among the settlers, and at least one fully developed witch trial — 
that of Grace Sherwood — took place as late as 1705-6 in Princess 
Anne County, 8 not far from the border of North Carolina. 9 From 

owner of the vessel, the captain (John Greene) and the crew threatened to 
mutiny when he opposed their action, and that consequently he was forced 
to permit the hanging. (E. D. Neill, Virginia Carolorum, New York, 1886, 
256). That the witchcraft prosecutions in New England during the late 
seventeenth century were the outcome of beliefs imported from the mother 
country is shown by Kittredge, Proc. Am. Ant. Soc, xvni, p. 4, n. 1 ; p. 49, 
n. 130; The Old Farmer and his Almanack, Boston, 1904, p. 110. 

7 See especially The Writings of " Colonel William Byrd of Westover in 
Virginia, Esqr.," ed., J. S. Bassett, N. Y., 1901, Introdn., p. x f., and 
Stephen B. Weeks, Hist. Rev. of the Col. and State Records of North 
Carolina, [Raleigh, 1914], p. 4. 

* From 1637 to 1691 the territory comprised by the present counties of 
Norfolk and Princess Anne was known as Lower Norfolk County (Lower 
Norfolk County, Virginia, Antiquary, i, 3, n.). For evidence of witch- 
craft in Lower Norfolk County, see P. A. Bruce, op. cit., i, 279 fF. ; Burr, 
Narratives, 435 f . 

9 Grace was the daughter of one John White, a carpenter of Lynnhaven 
parish, and, at the time of her arraignment, was the widow of James 
Sherwood, of the same district. At various times from the year of her 
marriage, 1680, till 1708 Grace figures as plaintiff or defendant in some 
form of action at law. In 1698 two unsuccessful suits for slander brought 
by James and Grace Sherwood, show that the latter had been accused by 
John Gisburne of bewitching his hogs and cotton, and by Anthony Barnes 
of riding his wife and then escaping " out of the Key hole or crack of the 
door like a black Catt." In 1705-6 Grace was charged with witchcraft by 
Luke Hill and wife, against whom she had previously brought action for 
assault and battery. She was examined by a jury of women and found to 
have on her body certain marks which indicated that she was a witch. 
The county court having reached the limit of its authority, the case was 
referred to the General Court at Williamsburg (Cf. 3 Hening, Statutes, 
389, Chap. 38), whence, for lack of specific evidence, it was returned to the 
local authorities. The constable and sheriff were then ordered to search 
" graces House and all Suspicious places Carfully for all Images and Such 
like things as may any way Strengthen The Suspicion," but the results are 
not given. It appears, however, that evidence was forthcoming, and in 
June, 1706, the county court decided that the plaintiff's guilt " Doth very 
likely appear." In July, 1706, Grace was bound and " tried in the water 
by ducking." According to the records, she floated. She was then remanded 
to jail to await further trial, but, if the matter ever came up again, the 
records are lost. In any case, she did not die in prison. In 1708 she 



Tom Peete Cross 221 

these facts it should be obvious that such relics of the witchcraft 
superstition as exist today in North Carolina are but the result 
of a belief which has from time immemorial formed part of the 
intellectual heritage of the human race. 

An appreciable effect in preserving among the settlers of Virginia 
and North Carolina a lively faith in the reality of black magic 
must be attributed to at least one learned source — Michael Dalton's 
Countrey Justice, an early seventeenth century handbook of legal 

confessed judgment for a debt due Christopher Cocke. She made her will 
in 1733, and died before October, 1740, when the document was admitted 
to probate. A number of local traditions are still associated with her 
name. Fishermen still point out the Witch-Duck, a spot near the mouth of 
Lynnhaven Inlet, where Grace is said to have undergone her trial by water. 
There is a story that, instead of returning to jail, she sailed away to 
England in an egg-shell, the same sort of vessel in which she had originally 
come to Virginia. According to another tradition, a millstone which was 
tied to her when she was placed in the water, floated, and she appeared 
seated upon it. (During the middle ages saints occasionally travelled on 
floating stones. Silva Gadelica, 1892, u, pp. 11, 33; Irish Texts Soc, xvi 
(1914), 166.) A poem written by W. A. Swank of Norfolk, attributes to 
Grace what appears to be a purely fanciful early career in England. For 
the evidence in the Sherwood case, see William and Mary College Quarterly 
Historical Mag., 1895; Lower Norfolk County, Virginia, Antiquary, n and 
in; Burr, op. cit., pp. 438 ff. Cf . W. S. Forrest, Historical and Descriptive 
Sketches of Norfolk, Philadelphia, 1853, p. 464; S. G. Drake, Annals of 
Witchcraft in New England and Elsewhere in the United States, Boston, 
1869, pp. 210 ff.; O. P. Chitwood, Johns Hopkins University Studies in 
History and Political Science, xxin, 485, n.; A. M. Gummere, Witchcraft 
and Quakerism, Philadelphia, 1908, p. 37; John Ashton, The Devil in 
Britain and America, London, 1896, p. 313 ff. See further P. A. Bruce, 
op. cit., I, 278 ff., where evidence on this and other Virginia cases is 
recorded; and J. C. Wise, Ye Eingdome of Accawmacke or the Eastern 
Shore of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century, Richmond, 1911, p. 47; 
Burr, Narratives, p. 438 ff. Accusations of witchcraft are found in Vir- 
ginia records as early as 1641. For South Carolina, see Drake, op. cit., 
p. 215 f. 

The ordeal by water, made famous by the seventeenth-century English 
Witch- Finder General, Matthew Hopkins, is based on the theory that, 
because of her unclean nature, the witch will not sink in the pure element 
water, or that, by her connection with Satan, she is rendered preter- 
naturally light. A learned controversy on the subject took place in the 
eighteenth century between Francis Hutchinson (An Historical Essay con- 
cerning Witchcraft (1718), London, 1720, ch. xi), and Richard Boulton 
{The Possibility and Reality of Magic, Sorcery, and Witchcraft Demon- 
strated, etc., London, 1722, ch. vi). 



222 Witchcraft in North Carolina 

procedure. The book was first printed in 1618 and was often re- 
edited in Great Britain. It enjoyed wide popularity among the 
legal profession in the colonies and appears to have been cited as a 
standard authority during the greater part of the colonial period. 10 
In accordance with English law, The Countrey Justice declares it 
a felony "to use or practise Witchcrafts, Enchantment, Charme, 
or Sorcerie, whereby any person shall be killed, pined, or lamed in 
any part of their body . . . [or] any cattell or goods shall be 
destroyed or impaired." "Since," according to the author, "the 
Justices of peace may not always expect direct evidence," elaborate 
directions are given for identifying witches, who are pronounced 
" the most cruell, revengefull, and bloudie " of all sorcerers. 11 

The prominent place occupied by witchcraft in the minds of the 
colonists is well illustrated by an incidental reference in John 
Lawson's History of Carolina, an early eighteenth-century com- 
pendium of information regarding the inhabitants and natural 
resources of the province, dedicated to the Lords Proprietors, for 
whom the author acted as surveyor general. It was printed as 
early as 1709, and the first separate edition appeared in 1714. 
Apropos of the attitude of the Indians toward spirits, Lawson 
refers to the many " Hobgoblins and Bugbears as that we [white 
men] suck in with our milk, and the foolery of our Nurses and 
Servants suggest to us; who, by their idle Tales of Fairies and 
Witches, Make impressions on our tender Years, that at Maturity 
we carry Pigmies' Souls in Giant Bodies and ever after are thereby 
so much deprived of reason, and Unmann'd, as never to be Masters 

10 For references to Dalton's book in catalogues of early Virginia libra- 
ries, see Va. Mag. of Hist, and Biog., m, 132; vi, 146; Wm. and Mary 
Coll. Qy., ii, 170; m, 133; vni, 20, 78. In one case of suspected witchcraft 
(1675) in Lower Norfolk County (cf. p. 220, n. 8) a jury was ordered "to 
make deligent search . . . according to the 118 chapter of doulton " (Wm. 
and Mary Coll. Qy., m, 165). See further Mass. Records, n, 212. My 
colleague, Professor A. P. Scott, to whom I am indebted for these refer- 
ences, assures me that various early Virginia law books quote freely from 
Dalton. 

m P. 276 f. of the fifth, revised and enlarged, edition, London, 1635. The 
British Museum catalogue lists more than half-a-dozen editions of Dalton 
before the middle of the eighteenth century. A summary of the treatment 
of witchcraft found in the 1655 edition is given by E. L. Linton, Witch 
Stories, London, 1861, p. 182, n. 



Tom Peete Cross 223 

of half the Bravery Nature designed for us." 12 These words, 
with a few trivial alterations, are repeated in The Natural History 
of North Carolina, published in 1737 by one Dr. John Brickell, 13 
a physician who is said to have practiced in Edenton about 1730. 

The following passage is found in Dr. Joseph Doddrige's Notes 
on the Settlement and Indian Wars of the Western Parts of Vir- 
ginia & Pennsylvania, from the Year 1763 until the Year 1788, 
Inclusive, Together with a View of the State of Society and Man- 
ners of the First Settlers of the Western Country (Wellesburgh, 
Va., 1824, p. 161 If.). 138 It was later incorporated by Mann But- 
ler, an early historian of Kentucky, in his more extensive descrip- 
tion of the " Manners and Habits of the Western Pioneers," 
written about 1836 (ms. Durrett D 3333, p. 56 ff. : University of 
Chicago Library) whence for convenience the present transcript 
is taken. The data were gathered in northwestern Virginia (near 
the Kentucky border), but, as Butler observes, the account may be 
taken as * a faithful picture of early frontier conditions throughout 

12 The History of Carolina, by John Lawson, Gent., London, 1714, 
reprinted as History of North Carolina, Charlotte, 1903. The passage 
quoted is found on page 118 of the reprint. Lawson may be repeating an 
old theory rather than speaking from personal observation or experience. 
John Webster, in his famous Displaying of Supposed Witchcraft, written 
in 1677, blames idle tales heard in youth for much of the belief in witch- 
craft in his day. (See p. 32 of the first edition.) For an account of the 
editions of Lawson's History, see Weeks, An. Rep. Am. Hist. Assn., 1895, 
p. 230 f. 

u The Natural History of North Carolina, by John Brickell, M. D., 
Dublin, 1737 (Reprint, p. 354). Brickell appropriates almost verbatim 
and without acknowledgment not only this but many other passages in 
Lawson's History. Attention was called to the plagiarism in the No. Am. 
Rev., xxin (N. S. xiv), 1826, p. 288, note, but, as Weeks shows (An. Rep. 
Am. Hist. Assn., 1895, p. 234), Brickell's work is " a good deal more than a 
mere slavish reprint of Lawson." 

13,1 In the copy before me the title-page is lacking. According to Sabin 
a second edition appeared at Winchester in 1833. Another edition, by 
Alfred Williams, " with a Memoir of the Author by his Daughter," 
appeared at Albany in 1876, and parts of the book have been printed 
several times, but the complete early editions are said to be extremely 
rare. As the text of the manuscript was in type before I discovered a copy 
of Dr. Doddridge's book and as the differences between the two are unim- 
portant, I have allowed the former to stand. 



224 Witchcraft in North Carolina 

the western country generally/ including, of course, the highlands 
of Carolina. 

"The belief in witchcraft," writes Dr. Doddridge, "was prevalent among 
the settlers of the western country. To the witch was ascribed the tremen- 
dous power of inflicting strange and incurable diseases, particularly on 
children, of destroying cattle by shooting them with hair-balls, and a 
great variety of other means of destruction; of inflicting spells and curses 
on guns and other things, and lastly, of changing men into horses, and 
after bridling and saddling, riding them in full speed over hill and dale 
to their frolics and other places of rendezvous. Wizards were men 
supposed to possess the same mischievous powers as the witches; but they 
were seldom exercised for bad purposes. The powers of wizards were 
exercised for the purpose of counteracting the malevolent influences of the 
witches of the other sex. I have known several of these witchmasters, as 
they were called, who made a public profession of curing the diseases 
inflicted by the influence of witches; and I have known respectable physi- 
cians, who had no greater portion of business, in the line of their profes- 
sion, than many of these witch-masters had in theirs. . . . Diseases which 
could not be accounted for nor cured, were usually ascribed to some 
supernatural agency of a malignant kind. For the cure of the diseases 
inflicted by witchcraft, the picture of the supposed witch was drawn on a 
stump or piece of board, and shot at with a bullet containing a little bit 
of silver. This silver bullet transferred a painful and sometimes a mortal 
spell on that part of the witch corresponding with the part of the portrait 
struck by the bullet. The witch had but one way of relieving herself from 
any spell inflicted on her in this way, which was that of borrowing some- 
thing, no matter what, of the family to which the subject of the exercise 
of her witch-craft belonged. I have known several poor old women much 
surprised at being refused requests which had been usually granted without 
hesitation, and almost heart-broke when informed of the cause of the 
refusal. When cattle or hogs were supposed to be under the influence of 
witchcraft, they were burnt in the forehead by a branding iron, or when 
dead, burned wholly to ashes. This inflicts a spell upon the witch, that 
could only be removed by borrowing, as above stated. Witches were often 
said to milk the cows of their neighbors. This they did by fixing a new 
pin in a towel for each cow intended to be milked. This towel was hung 
over her own door, and by means of certain incantations, the milk was 
extracted from the fringes of the towel, after the manner of milking a 
cow. This happened when the cows were too poor to give much milk." 

K. G. Thwaites, who had at his disposal the valuable Draper 
manuscript materials on early frontier history, is authority for 
the assertion that during the latter half of the eighteenth century 
the inhabitants of Davie County, North Carolina, " firmly believed 
in the existence of witches " and that " bad dreams, eclipses of the 



Tom Peete Cross 225 

sun, the howling of dogs and the croaking of ravens " were sure 
prologues to coming disaster. 14 

Testimony of a more satisfactory character is furnished by the 
autobiography of Kev. Brantley York, who was born in 1805. 
York states that during the early nineteenth century the inhab- 
itants of the Bush Creek district in Eandolph County, where he 
spent part of his boyhood, "believed in Witchcraft, Ghost-seeing, 
haunted houses and fortune telling." " When the neighbors came 
together," he continues, "the most prominent topic of conversa- 
tion was relating some remarkable witch tales, ghost stories and 
conjurations of various kinds; and so interesting was (sic) these 
stories that the conversation often continued until a very late hour 
at night. Often have I sat and listened to these stories till it 
seemed to me that each hair upon my head resembled the quill of 
a porcupine. I was afraid to go out of doors, afraid to go to bed 
alone, and almost afraid of my own shadow." 15 A striking instance 
of the influence exerted by witchcraft on the country people of 
western North Carolina at a somewhat later date is furnished by 
Mr. Charles L. Coon, of Wilson, to whom the writer is indebted 
for the use of his collectanea. The events occurred during the 
second quarter of the last century in " an isolated section of Lincoln 
County originally settled by Germans and a few English." The 
account as given by Mr. Coon is as follows : 

" My father, who was horn in 1834, has often told me that one of his 
earliest recollections centered around the death of a young neighbor boy 
who received no other medical attention to aid him in combatting a severe 



14 R. G. Thwaites, Daniel Boone, New York, 1902, p. 32. 

™The Autobiography of Brantley York (John Lawson Monographs of 
the Trinity College Historical Society, i), Durham, 1910, p. 8 f. Of condi- 
tions during the early nineteenth century in Bedford County, Virginia, 
Dr. J. B. Jeter (born 1802) writes: " Story -telling was one of the common 
amusements of the times; and these stories usually related to witches, 
hags, giants, prophetic dreams, ghosts and the like. The dread of jack- 
o'-lanterns, graveyards and ghosts was quite common, and extended much 
beyond the avowed belief in their reality. Haunted spots were quite 
common, to Which timid passengers usually gave a wide berth in the night. 
Ghosts were not unfrequently seen gliding about in the twilight, or in the 
moonshine, clothed in white." He then tells the story of how he himself 
once came near seeing a ghost. For the whole passage, see Wm. E. Hatcher, 
Life of J. B. Jeter, D. D., Baltimore, 1887, p. 36 f . I am indebted to my 
colleague, Professor Wm. E. Dodd, for calling my attention to this book. 



226 Witchcraft in North Carolina 

4 

case of typhoid fever than that supplied by the neighboring witch doctor. 
This hoy's parents were ignorant and superstitious, and believed in witches 
and in the powers witches were supposed to possess. When their young 
son fell sick, they imagined he had been bewitched; so the doctor was sent 
for. He came and told the parents that their surmisings were correct, that 
witches had certainly caused the sickness of their child. Confidingly the 
parents permitted the witch doctor to have his way, and the treatment for 
' witches ' was immediately begun. First, the • doctor ' ordered the return 
of all borrowed property to the owners and also ordered that the parents 
of the sick boy call in everything which happened to have been borrowed 
from them. These orders embraced everything, and one neighbor was very 
much inconvenienced by having to return a log-chain which he was using 
and could not at the time replace without purchasing a new one. But 
finally all borrowed property was in place, and then the doctor proceeded 
to treat the bewitched boy. For several weeks he visited the patient and 
put him through many physical calisthenics, all the while uttering in a 
low voice what appeared to be magic words or incantations in Pennsylvania 
Dutch to drive away the spell wrought by the witches. But no one under- 
stood or could interpret the magic words which were used. Days passed 
and the child finally died. The witch doctor then reluctantly admitted 
that the spell of the witches was beyond his power. The death of this 
young child under such circumstances seems not to have caused any great 
public indignation at the time. Only upon a few persons in the neighbor- 
hood did this death make any lasting impression, so general was the belief 
in witches." 

Judge G. A. Shuford told Mr. J. P. Arthur of a reputed witch 
known as " Granny " Weiss or Weice, who lived on the French 
Broad River, near the mouth of Davidson's Eivei, about a century 
ago. On being consulted by a man named Johnson who was suffer- 
ing from gravel, she informed the patient that unless he returned 
several hundred dollars which, as she happened to know, he had 
stolen from a cattle buyer, he could not be cured. Johnson accord- 
ingly restored the money, but whether he was healed of his ailment 
is not told. In any case, the story of the theft got abroad, and he 
was forced to leave the neighborhood. 16 

As will appear from the following pages, a considerable body of 
testimony is available for the study of the witchcraft superstition 
in North Carolina during the last half century. 

Although in North Carolina the term witch, true to its historical 
usage, is still applied to either sex, now, as of yore, more women 
than men are accused of dabbling in the black art. 17 The following 

M J. P. Arthur, Western North Carolina, Ealeigh, 1914, p. 342. 

17 King James I. was merely repeating an older tradition when, in his 



Tom Peete Cross 227 

account, furnished by Mr. G. T. Stephenson, formerly of Pendleton, 
North Carolina, concerns a woman who was reputed to be a witch. 18 

" The early years of Phoebe Ward, witch, are shrouded in mystery. It is 
known that she was a woman of bad morals. No one seemed to know any- 
thing of her past. She was an old, old woman when this account begins. 

" Phoebe Ward had no fixed home. She lived here and there, first at one 
place and then at another in Northampton County, North Carolina. She 
stayed in a hut or any shelter whatsoever that was granted her. 

" She made her living by begging from place to place. Most people were 
afraid to refuse her, lest she should apply her witchcraft to them. When 
she found a house at which people were particularly kind to her, there she 
stopped and abused their kindness. Hence the people resorted to a number 
of methods to keep her away. For instance, when they saw her coming, 
they would stick pins point-up into the chair-bottoms, and then offer her 
one of these chairs. It is said that she could always tell when the chair 
was thus fixed, and would never sit in it. Also, they would throw red 
pepper into the fire, and Phoebe would leave as soon as she smelled it 
burning. . . . 

"Among her arts it is said that she could ride persons at night (the 
same as nightmares), that she could ride horses at night, and that when 
the mane was tangled in the morning it was because the witch had made 
stirrups of the plaits. She was said to be able to go through key-holes, 
and to be able to make a horse jump across a river as if it were a ditch. 
She was credited with possessing a sort of grease which she could apply, 
and then slip out of her skin and go out on her night rambles, and on her 
return get back again. It is said that once she was making a little bull 
jump across the river, and as she said, 'Through thick, through thin; 
'way over in the hagerleen,' the animal rose and started. When he was 
about half way over, she said, ' That was a damn'd good jump,' and down 
the bull came into the river. (The witch is not to speak while she is 
crossing.) 19 



famous treatise on Daemonologie (1597), he asserted that during the 
sixteenth century female witches were largely in the majority (See p. 116 
of the 1616 edn.). See further Reginald Scot, The Discoverie of Witch- 
craft (1584), ed., B. Nicholson, London, 1886, p. 93. Cf. Jules Bois, 
Le Satanisme et la Magie, Paris, 1895, especially Chap. n. 

18 As printed, Journal of American Folk-Lore, xxii (1909), 252 f. The 
version here given is the source of Miss Elizabeth A. Lay's drama, "When 
Witches Ride," printed in the University of North Carolina Magazine, 
April, 1919. 

"In an Irish folk-tale recorded by B. Hunt (Folk Tales of Breffny, 
Macmillan, 1912, p. 11), an old man mounted on a yearling calf, rides out 
one night with a band of fairy-folk, or " good people." " It wasn't long 
before they came to a big lake that had an island in the middle of it*. 
With one spring the whole party landed on the island and with another 



228 Witchcraft in North Carolina 

" To keep the witch away people nailed horse-shoes with the toe up over 
the stable-doors. To keep her from riding persons at night, they hung up 
sieves over the door. The witch would have to go through all the meshes 
before she could enter, and by the time she could get through, it would 
be day, and she would be caught. 

" Phoebe came near meeting a tragic death before her allotted time was 
out. One night several men of the neighborhood gathered around a brandy- 
barrel. As the liquor flowed, their spirits rose, and they were on the 
lookout for some fun. They went over to where Phcebe was staying and 
found her asleep. Thinking she was dead, they shrouded her, and proceeded 
to hold the wake. They were soon back at their demijohns, and while they 
were standing in one corner of the room drinking, there came a cracked, 
weak voice from the other corner, where the supposed corpse was lying 
out, ' Give me a little ; it's mighty cold out here.' They all fled but one,— 
Uncle Bennie, — and he was too drunk to move. When things became quiet 
and Phoebe repeated her request, he said, 'Hush, you damn'd b — h, I'm 
goin' to bury you in the mornin'.' The others were afraid to return that 
night, but did so the next morning, and found Bennie and Phoebe sitting 
before the fire, contented, warm, and drinking brandy. 

" After this Phoebe lived several years, making her livelihood by begging. 
Her last days were as mysterious as her early life had been." 

Like her kinswomen of the past, the modern female witch, 
though generally old, is not always so. A batch of witch lore 
received in 1908 from an old negro woman in southeastern 
Virginia contains the information that the black art is sometimes 
practiced by young girls. That the ancient principle, si saga sit 
mater, sic etiam est filia, still holds good, is illustrated by an 
account of the daughter of a North Carolina witch, who, while 
accompanying her mother on one of her midnight rambles, got into 
serious trouble. 20 The witch of today is also like her ancestors 
in having certain physical peculiarities which differentiate her 

they were safe v on the far shore. 'Damn, but that was a great lep for a 
yearling calf,' said Paddy. With that one of the| Good People struck him 
a blow on the head, the way the sense was knocked out of him and he fell 
on the field." 

"For the story, see J. A. F.-L., xxn (1909), 251. In connection with the 
trial of witches at Lancaster, England, in 1612, a girl of fourteen confessed 
that one night she had been carried by her grandmother and aunt (two 
witches) to the house of one Thomas Walshman (Thomas Wright, Narra- 
tives of Sorcery and Magic, London, 1851, ii, 129; cf. 140). Cf. Burr, 
Narratives, 345. Children, as well as adults, were formerly executed for 
witchcraft. See A. F. Chamberlain, The Child and Childhood in Folk 
Thought, N. Y., 1896, 323. 



Tom Peete Cross 229 

from the common run of womankind. According to the old negro 
just referred to, a witch's breasts are situated under her arms, 
and the skin about her neck resembles a collar. 21 The witch of 
the seventeenth century also bore on her body certain marks or 
teats which were the seal of her compact with Satan 22 or were 
sucked by her familiar demons and which were often used by courts 
of justice as means of identification. 23 Eeginald Scot, who deserves 
high honor for having raised his voice against the well nigh 
universal belief in witchcraft during the sixteenth century, asserts 
that in his day (his famous Discoverie of Witchcraft was published 
in 1584), a suspected witch who had " anie privie marke under 
her arm pokes " was regarded by the courts as guilty. 24 The fol- 
lowing is according to Dalton : " Their [witches'] . . . familiar 
hath some big or little teat upon their body, & in some secret place, 
where hee sucketh them. And besides their sucking, the Devil 
leaveth other marks upon their body, sometimes like a blew spot, 
or red spot, like a Flea-biting . . . And these the Devills markes 
be insensible, & being pricked will not bleed, & be often in their 
secretest parts, and therefore require diligent and carefull search." 25 
As lately as 1706 Grace Sherwood, on trial for witchcraft before 
the court of Princess Anne County, Virginia, was examined by a 
jury of women and found to have " two things like titts on her 
private parts of a Black Coller, being Blacker than the Rest of her 
Body." According to the old woman who furnished the informa- 
tion about the witch-marks, a male witch will not look you in the 

31 Cf. J. A. F.-L., xxii, 251. 

22 An old song, said to have been current for more than a hundred years 
in central North Carolina, refers to the sign placed by the Devil on the 
forehead of those " that he claims for his own." Mrs. E. M. Backus, the 
collector, says, " I have heard before of the two marks of Satan, one in 
the head and one in the hand, I believe, of this shape + " (J. A. F.-L,, 
xrv (1901), 291). The mark by which the devil brands witches is referred 
to in a seventeenth century pamphlet of instructions to jurymen (See 
below, p. 230, n. 26). 

23 See Notestein, op. tit., pp. 36, 155. Cf. King James I, Daemonologie, 
1616 edn., p. 105; Matthew Hopkins, Discovery of Witches, 1647, 3f.; 
Joseph Glanvill, Sadducismus Triwnphatus (on which see below, p. 230, 
n. 27), 4th edn., London, 1726, pp. 295, 298 f.; S. G. Drake, op. tit., 80 f.; 
Burr, Narratives, pp. 344, 436, n. 1. 

24 Op. tit., 21. 

25 Op. tit., p. 277. 



230 Witchcraft in North Carolina 

face, a habit which, Scot asserts, 26 was attributed to all witches in 
the sixteenth century. 

In North Carolina, where, as in other Christian communities, 
the Devil is ever ready to deceive the unwary, license to practice 
witchcraft is often received directly from his Satanic Majesty, who 
in exchange takes a mortgage on the soul of the pupil as he did on 
that of Doctor Faustus hundreds of years ago. 27 The story told 

™Op. cit., pp. 16, 20. According to sixteenth-century opinion a witch 
cannot weep (Scot, op. cit., p. 22). The tests applied to witches by seven- 
teenth-century English courts are given by Robert Filmer in An Advertise- 
ment to the Jury-Men of England touching Witches (1652), London, 1680, 
p. 304 ff. Cf. Burr, Narratives, p. 304, n. 5. 

27 The articles of the demon contract are discussed along with a detailed 
exposition of the whole science of black magic in the Malleus Maleficarum, 
or "Witch-Hammer" (published in 1489), perhaps the most famous hand- 
book of witchcraft ever written. See the 1620 (London) edition, I, 27, 
148, 160; n, Part n, 37, 372, 382. Cf. A. M. Pratt, The Attitude of the 
Catholic Church toward Witchcraft, etc., Washington (D. C. ), 1915, p. 57. 
Various phases of the witchcraft superstition are seriously discussed from 
the standpoint of seventeenth-century metaphysics and natural philosophy 
by that famous enemy of the Devil and his earthy servants, Joseph Glan- 
vill, Fellow of the Royal Society and Chaplain in Ordinary to His Majesty 
King Charles II., in a tract entitled Some Philosophical Considerations 
Touching the Being of Witches and Witchcraft (1666). See pp. 15 ff. of 
the second edition, London, 1667. Glanvill's arguments for the existence 
of witches are repeated in A Blow at Modern Sadducism in Some Philo- 
sophical Considerations about Witchcraft (See pp. 15 ff. of the fourth 
edition, corrected and enlarged, London, 1668), and are set forth more 
fully in his still well-known Sadducismus Triumphatus: A Full and Plain 
Evidence concerning Witches and Apparitions, first published in 1681 (See 
pp. 6 ff . of the fourth [1726] edition). On Glanvill's importance in the 
history of English witchcraft, see Kittredge, Proc. Am. Ant. Soc, xvin, 13. 
Glanvill's attempt to prove scientifically the reality of the demon contract, 
animal transformation, and other tenets of the witchcraft creed, was 
answered by John Webster in The Displaying of Supposed Witchcraft, 
London, 1677. See further Alexander Roberts, A treatise on Witchcraft, 
London, 1616, p. 28 ff.; John Wagstaffe, The Question of Witchcraft 
Debated, 2d edn., London, 1671, p. 101 ff. Cf. Paul Carus, History of the 
Devil and the Idea of Evil, Chicago, 1900, p. 414 ff. For other early 
evidence, see Wright, Narratives, n, pp. 88, 96, 114 f., 151, 153; Daemon- 
ologia: A Discourse on Witchcraft as it was Acted in the Family of Mr. 
Edward Fairfax, of Fuyston, in the County of York, in the Year 1621, 
ed., W. Grainge, Harrogate, 1882, pp. 40 ff. Cf. Scot, op. cit., pp. 31 ff.; 
Grimm, Deut. Mythol., 4th edn., Berlin, 1876, II, 894 f. ; Karl Knortz, 
Streifziige auf dem Gebiete amerikanischer Volkskunde, Leipzig, 1902, pp. 
130 ff. ; Ashton, op. cit., pp. 148 ff. 



Tom Peete Cross 231 

below was related to Mr. Thomas Smith, of Zionville, North Caro- 
lina, by Sam Guy, an uneducated man of some sixty-five years, 
who has spent most of his life in the mountains. Sam is known 
as a successful squirrel hunter and a great digger of 'sang' 
(ginseng) . He is a firm believer in witchcraft and can justify his 
faith by a large number of authentic cases, of which the following 
is a sample : 

"Ye know Eph Tucker that used to live on the Hashion? Well, he wuz 
all'us counted a mighty truthful man, and he used to tell me a sight o' 
tales about witches. He said when he lived down in Ashe, there was a 
man named Ferro who shore could bewitch people. . . . One day [Eph.] 
says to Ferro, says he, 'I want to learn to bewitch folks like you can/ 
Ferro kindly agreed to show him how to be a witch. He says, ' You come 
with me out in the road.' They went out in the wagin road, and Ferro tuck 
a stick and made a ring in the dirt. ' Now you git in that ring,' says 
Ferro. Eph, he got in the ring. ' Now squat down,' says Ferro. Eph, he 
squatted down. 'Now,' says Ferro, 'put one hand under yer right foot 
and tother hand on top o' yer head.' 2S Well, Eph put one hand under his 
foot and tother on top o' his head. ' Now,' says Ferro, • you say ater me : 
" Devil take me, ring and all." ' Eph said he wuz a-gittin' a little bit 
skeered by this time, but he said what ole Ferro told him — ' Devil take me, 
ring and all ' — and about that time the ground begin to sink right under 
him. Eph says he felt himself a-goin' right down. He shore was skeered 
by this time, and he give a jump right out o' the ring and run from that 
place as hard as he could. 2 * He didn't turn his head to look back. Ater 
that Eph said he never tried to be a witch any more." 

Judged by the following passage from Dalton, old Ferro's 
instructions combine the practice of witchcraft with that of 
conjury, between which the legal authority is careful to distinguish. 
Whereas the witch deals with the Devil " rather by a friendly and 
voluntarie conference or agreement between him (or her) and the 
devill or familiar/' conjurers "beleeve by certain terrible words, 
that they can raise the Devill, and make him to tremble; and by 
imp ailing themselves in a circle (which as one saith, cannot keep 

28 In 1678 Annabil Stuart, tried for witchcraft at Paisley, iScotland, 
confessed that as part of the ceremony of giving herself to the Devil, " she 
put her hand to the crown of her head, and the other to the sole of her 
foot." Glanvill, op. tit., p. 391. 

29 On the circle as a protection against the powers of evil, see F. D. 
Bergen, Animal and Plant Lore Collected from the Oral Tradition of 
English Speaking People, Boston and N. Y., 1899, p. 13. 



232 Witchcraft in North Carolina 

out a mouse) they beleeve that they are therein inseonsed, and 
safe from the Devill whom they are about to raise." 30 

Among the mountain whites of the southern Alleghanies it was 
possible some twenty years since for a man to acquire forbidden 
knowledge by " scouring a tin or pewter plate in some secret place, 
and giving himself to the Devil by saying, ' I will be as clean of 
Jesus Christ as this dish is of dirt.' " S1 In Knott County, Ken- 
tucky, said to have been settled by emigrants from Virginia and 
North Carolina, a woman may become a witch by taking a hand- 
kerchief and gun, ascending the highest neighboring mountain 
before sunrise, and proceeding as follows : " Just as the fiery ball 
appears above the eastern horizon, with uttered imprecations 
against Deity and prayers to the Devil, she is to shoot a bullet 
through the handkerchief as she holds it up toward the rising 
sun. If blood flows from the torn cloth, she is an accepted member 
of the witches' crew." 32 The ratification of the compact, here 
shown by the bleeding of the handkerchief, is generally indicated 
by other means. The method of procedure adopted in the following 
account from Scott County, east Tennessee, has the sanction of 
a long line of tradition. The narrator, an old white man, said that 
on one occasion he had stolen and used some white powder which 
formed part of the stock in trade of a witch. Later he met " a very 
small, dark-haired, red-complected man " who said, " You have 
used some of my material, and now you must put your name in 
my book." The trembling mortal wrote his name with his own 
blood in the stranger's book, but he must have desisted from using 
the diabolical stuff, for the Devil never came to claim his victim. 33 

The examination of Elizabeth Style, of Stoke Trister, Somerset, 
before an English justice in 1664, shows that the ceremony 

30 Op. tit., p. 279. 

81 J. A. Porter, " Folk-Lore of the Mountain Whites of the Alleghanies," 
J. A. F.-L., vn (1894), 107. 

82 H. G. Shearin, " Some Superstitions of the Cumberland Mountains," 
J. A. F.-L., xxiv (1911), 320. Cf. Notestein, op. tit., p. 153. 

" J. A. F.-L., xiri (1900), 210. Compare the story of the little girl and 
the Devil in " Negro Folk Lore and Witchcraft in the South.," J. A. F.-L., 
m (1890), 203. It would be surprising if the tale of "The Devil and Tom 
Walker," known elsewhere in the United States, is not preserved in North 
Carolina. Cf. Karl Knortz, Streifzuge auf dent Gebiete amerikanischer 
Volkskunde, p. 130 f. 



Tom Peete Cross 233 

described above finds good authority in seventeenth century prac- 
tice. The defendant confessed that the Devil had appeared to her 
** in the shape of a handsome Man, and after of a black Dog," and 
had offered her wealth and happiness for twelve years if she would 
" sign his Paper/' observe his laws, and let him suck her blood. 
When she agreed, " he prick'd the fourth Finger of her Eight-hand, 
between the middle and upper Joint, (where the sign at the 
Examination remained) and with a Drop or two of her Blood, 
she signed the Paper with an [0]. Upon this, the Devil gave her 
Sixpence, and vanish'd with the paper." 3 * 

The modern American witch, though perhaps not quite so 
malignant as her predecessors, is fully equipped with a wide range 
of uncanny powers. Like the witches of all time, she is a shape- 
shifter of astonishing versatility. According to Eev. Brantley 
York, 35 the inhabitants of Eandolph County, North Carolina, a 
century ago believed that witches could transform themselves into 
any variety of bird or beast, but it is probable that then as now 1 
North Carolina witches assumed by preference the form of special 
animals. 36 

From ancient times the cat has been regarded as endowed with 
supernatural qualities, 37 and has been associated with practitioners 
of the black art. To kill a cat is everywhere bad luck. 38 It is also 

34 Glanvill, op. cit., p. 295. Frequently the Devil's wages turn out to foe 
worthless, as in a negro story from Guilford County, North Carolina. The 
Devil gave a fiddler fifty cents for playing two tunes, hut the man, on 
reaching home, discovered that he had nothing in his pocket but filth 
(J. A. F.-L., xxx [1917], 180). 

35 Autoliog., p. 8. 

38 The following comes from Guilford County. A farmer who was at 
enmity with one of his neighbors discovered that a large white horse was 
destroying his tobacco. "iSo he made up his mind to stop it that night. 
He went to de fence an* gathered him up a rail, an' sot down. An' when 
de horse come, an' at full speed, he knocked it backuds with the rail. It 
was that other man's wife he foun' layin' over the other side of the fence 
a-shiverin'."— Negro. (J. A. F.-L., xxx (1917), 186.) 

37 On demon eats, see [Harvard] Studies & Notes in Philol. and Lit., vm 
(1903), 259, n. 2; Grimm, Deut. Mythol., 4th edn., Berlin, 1876, n, 873. 
On animal demons, see M. D. Conway, Demonology and Devil-Lore, 3d edn., 
New York, 1889, I, 121 ff. Cf. A. Wuttke, Der deutsche Volksaberglaube 
der Gegenwart (3d edn., by E. H. Meyer), Berlin, 1900, p. 151. 

38 For evidence from the mountains of North Carolina, see J. A. F.-L., XX 
(1907), 245. 



234 Witchcraft in North Carolina 

unlucky to sleep with 39 or even cross the path of a cat. 40 Cats suck 
the breath of sleeping infants 41 and sometimes mutilate corpses. 42 
It is good luck for a cat to come to the house, 43 but in North Caro- 
lina, when a family moves, the cat should never be taken. 44 Tails, 
skins, and bones of black cats are widely used both in witchcraft 
and in popular preventive medicine. 45 During the great nourishing 
period of European witchcraft the cat often served as a disguise 
for the witch's familiar and even for the hag herself. 48 Today 
North Carolina witches often appear in the form of cats, and with 
the worst witches known to the mountain whites of the Alleghanies 
lycanthropy is common. 47 In a story told by a negress in Balti- 
more, Maryland, two white ladies of apparently irreproachable life 
who were wont to slip out of their skins and sally forth nightly 
and who were not cured of their shape-shifting propensities until 
salt was rubbed on their raw hides, always assumed the form of 
cats before scampering up the chimney. 48 Cats as familiars of 

39 J. A. F.-L., xh (1899), 268 (Ga.). 

40 Southern Workman and Hampton School Quarterly, xli (1913), 246. 
See further p. 235, n. 49, below. 

*»J. A. F.L., xii (1899), 268 (Ga.). 

43 F. D. Bergen, Animal and Plant Lore, p. 81. Cf. E. H. Meyer, Badisclies 
Volksleben, Strassburg, 1900, p. 584. 

43 J. A. F.L., XI (1898), 12 (Md.). 

44 J. A. F.-L., xx (1907), 244. Among the Cumberland Mountains it is 
good luck to find a cat of three colors, and, as long as you keep one, the 
house will not burn down (E. B. Miles, The Spirit of the Mountains, 
N. Y., 1905, p. 104). 

*J. A. F.-L., xv (1902), 191 (Washington, D. C.) ; xxn (1909), 255; 
F. D. Bergen, Animal and Plant Lore, p. 71. Cf. J. A. F.-L., xi (1898), 
12; W. G. Black, Folk-Medicine (Publns. of the Folk-Lore Soc, xii), L., 
1883, p. 151. 

48 " These Witches have ordinarily a familiar spirit, which appeareth to 
them; sometimes in one shape, sometimes in another; as in the shape of a 
Man, Woman, Boy, Dogge, Oat, Foale, Fowle, Hare, Bat, Toad, &c. And 
to these their spirits they give names, and they meete together to christen 
them." Dalton, op. cit., p. 277. See further Notestein, op. cit., pp. 35, 327 ; 
Scot, op. cit., p. 8; Glanvill, Sad. Triumph., pp. 298, 334, 398. 

47 J. A. F.-L., vn (1894), 114 f. Cf. Harvard Studies & Notes, vm 
(1903), 169, n. 1, 260 ff.; Sir Walter Scott, Letters on Demonology and 
Witchcraft, p. 211 ff.; John Webster, Displaying of Supposed Witchcraft, 
edn. cit., pp. 33, 91; Reginald Scot, op. cit., p. 71. 

48 J. A. F.-L., xn (1899), 145 f. Scot (op. cit., p. 73) cites the case of 
three witches who transformed themselves into cats to bedevil a faggot- 



Tom Peete Cross 235 

witches figure in Harrison Ainsworth's Lancashire Witches and 
in Miss Mary Johnston's Witch; and stories of the same general' 
type as Joel Chandler Harris's well-known "Plantation Witch" 
frequently represent the " hant " as appearing in the form of a 
cat. 49 The following tale from Northampton County, of which a 
Guilford County version has already been published, 50 is furnished 
by Mr. G. T. Stephenson : 

"An old house was haunted and nobody would stay in it. At last a 
foolhardy negro, under a wager, undertook to spend the night in the house. 
Soon after he had put the light out and gone to bed he saw sitting on the 
foot of the bed a big black cat with eyes that looked like moons, licking 
his whiskers. The cat mewed, ' There ain't nobody here but you and me, 
is there ? ' The negro rose up and said, ' Naw, and there ain't gwine to 
be nobody here but you long.' And with that he went out the window, 
taking the window-sash with him, and down the road like a streak of 
lightning. Having run out of breath the negro sat down on a log beside 
the road to rest. Looking up and towards the other end of the log he 
saw the same black cat sitting there. And the cat mewed, 'That was a 
right good race we had.' With that, the negro said, ' Dat ain't nothin' to 
what we's gwine to have,' and lit out again. The next morning those who 
had made the wager went to the haunted house to see what had happened 
and ftund the window-sash gone and no signs of the negro. Two or three 
days afterwards the negro came straggling in all bedraggled and with his 
clothes half torn off him. One of them asked him where he had been the 
last two or three days and he answered, ' I've been comin' back.' " a 



maker. Their victim, " having hurt them all with a faggot sticke, was like 
to have been put to death." 

49 The witch's familiar, when a cat, is generally black, and all cats of 
that color are more or less possessed. Nevertheless, when a witch assumes 
the form of a cat, the animal is not necessarily black. See J. A. F.-L., rv 
(1891), 324; vin (1895), 252 (S. C.) ; x (1897), 76; xii (1899), 145 
(Md.); xni (1900), 227 (Ga., negro). Among the negroes of tidewater 
Georgia and South Carolina witches derive their power from the possession 
of a particular bone from the body of a black cat (So. Workman, xxxiv 
[1905], 634 f.; J. A. F.-L., xxvn [1914], 247). In the mountains of North 
Carolina, " if a cat sits down among a crowd of girls, the one she looks at 
will marry first" (J. A. F.-L., xx (1907), 245). The Chicago American 
for May 8, 1915, records the case of an English maidservant who hesitated 
to sail on the ill-fated " Lusitania " because she had seen a black cat before 
going aboard. Late in the sixteenth century certain Scottish witches 
caused a terrible storm at sea by throwing a cat into the water (Newes 
from Scotland, etc., 1591 [Roxburghe Club, 1816]). 

80 J. A. F.-L., xxx, 195. 

■^During the writer's boyhood another version of this story was widely 
known throughout eastern Virginia and North Carolina through the telling 
of the popular entertainer, Polk Miller. 



236 Witchcraft in North Carolina 

The demon cat in Mr. Stephenson's story may not have been a 
transmogrified witch, but the case is perfectly clear in the following 
negro story from Guilford County, North Carolina, which repre- 
sents one of the multitudinous forms of the well-nigh worldwide 
motif of the defence of a house against a haunting goblin. The 
theme is embodied in the famous account of Beowolf's fight with 
Grendel in Hrothgar's hall, and Harris has an interesting variant 
in his Daddy Jake the Runaway. 

" Der was a man owned a mill, an' he couldn't stay at it late. Something 
would run him away. One day an ol' traveller (var., preacher) came 
along, an' asked him what would he give him to stay dere dat night. He 
said he would give him mos' anything if he would stay. So he went in, 
an' takin' (leg. taken?) his book, his Bible, an' surd, an' sat down an' 
kimminced a-readin'. It was eight or nine cats came in 'rectly after dark, 
an' staid there until gettin' late. An' one of them made a drive at de 
man, an' he up with his surd an' cut his right front foot off. An' dey all 
left then. Nex' mornin' he went up to de house fur breakfast. An' de 
miller he was gettin' breafas'. His wife was not able. He wanted to know 
what was de trouble. He said she was cuttin' a ham-bone in two an' hurt 
her han'. He showed the man a ring, an' asked him would he own it. He 
said he would. He said that was his wife ring he bought him [her(?)] 
befo' dey was married. So they went in de room an' asked her was dat 
her ring. She said it was not. Then they looked, an' her right han' was 
cut off at de wrist." B 

For the sake of convenience we may here consider an extraor- 
dinary document in which a house is rendered uninhabitable by 
the machinations of a shape-shifting witch. In a volume of more 
than three hundred pages the author — one M. V. Ingram — records, 
partly m his own, partly in the words of others, a series of fear- 
some happenings which illustrate several points of the witchcraft 
superstition as it existed a century ago in North Carolina and 

a J. A. F.-L., xxx, 196. For another excellent version, from the Big 
Smoky Mountains, see J. A. F.-L., vn (1894), 115. Here the mill is 
haunted with a single witch-cat, but in an account from Chestertown, 
Maryland, a mill is haunted by " a lot of black cats," one of which turns 
out to be the miller's wife when one of its front paws is cut off by the 
watcher (J. A. F.-L., xn (1899), 68 f.). Scot (op. cit., p. 72) tells of a 
man who, while in the form of a wolf, " had his wolves feet cut off, and 
in a moment . . . became a man without hands or feet." For other 
parallels, see Harvard Studies and Notes, vrn, 227, n. 2. Mills have long 
been favorite haunts of supernatural beings. Robin Goodfellow frequents 
mills (Percy Soc, ix, 114). 



Tom Peete Cross 237 

eastern Tennessee. The title-page reads: An Authenticated 
History of the Famous BELL WITCH. The Wonder of the 
19th Century, and Unexplained Phenomenon of the Christian Era. 
The Mysterious Talking Goblin that Terrorized the West End of 
Eobertson County, Tennessee, Tormenting John Bell to His Death. 
The Story of Betsy Bell, Her Lover and the Haunting 
Sphinx. Copyrighted, 1894, By M. V. INGRAM, Clarksville, 
Tenn. Clarksville, Tenn. : Wm. P. Titus, Agt., Printer and 
Binder. 63 

The book gives what purports to be an accurate account of the 
experiences of certain members of the family of John Bell, who 
in 1804 moved to Robertson County, Tennessee, 54 from Halifax 
County, North Carolina. The author affirms that he "only 
assumes to compile the data, formally presenting the history of 
this greatest of all mysteries, just as the matter is furnished to 
hand, written by Williams Bell, a member of the family, some 
fifty years ago, together with other corroborative testimony by 
men of irreproachable character and unquestionable veracity " (p. 
6 f.). Appended to Mr. Ingram's compilation are detailed reports 
of interviews with his informants, several letters from persons able 
to speak with authority, and an extended history of " Our Family 
Trouble " by Richard Williams, son of the unfortunate John Bell. 

Mr. Ingram declines to propound any theory regarding the cause 
of the phenomena he records, nor has he, he affirms, " any opinion 
to advance concerning witchcraft, sorcery, spiritualism or psychol- 
ogy in any form " ; yet he devotes a chapter of thirty pages to the 
presentation of a mass of evidence tending to establish the reality 
of supernatural phenomena. He cites the Bible and John Wesley, 
Richard Watson, Adam Clarke, and other commentators, as well as 
several modern instances, of which the mysterious " rocking of 
Dr. William Smith's cradle, which occurred in 1840, in Lynchburg, 
Va.," may serve as an example. 

^ In the copy before me a slip of paper bearing the words Setliff & Co., 
Nashville, Tenn., is pasted over the name of the printer and that of the 
place of publication. 

"According to the author, the Bell homestead was situated on the south 
bank of the Red River, about a mile from the spot now occupied by Adams 
Station, the latter being some forty miles north of Nashville, on the south- 
eastern branch of the Louisville and Nashville (the old Edgefield and 
Kentucky) Rail Road (pp. 17, 37). 



238 Witchcraft in North Carolina 

After a brief sketch of the social and religious life of the simple, 
frontier community in which the Bell family settled, Mr. Ingram 
describes a long series of persecutions which John Bell and his 
daughter Betsy suffered at the hands of an invisible being who 
took up its abode at the Bell homestead and made itself a general 
nuisance. 55 It first revealed its presence in 1817, and, when ques- 
tioned regarding its origin, claimed to have come from North 
Carolina. Sometimes alone, sometimes accompanied by four other 
airy personages denominated Blackdog, Mathematics, Cypocryphy, 
and Jerusalem, 56 it filled the house with wild laughter, profane 
language, and coarse jests. The smacking of unseen lips and 
strange sounds "like rats gnawing the bed posts . . . dogs fight- 
ing ... or trace chains dragging over the floor " made sleep 
impossible. Covers were pulled from the beds, chairs were over- 
turned, " chunks of wood and stones " fell unexpectedly in.., the 
path of the farm laborers, ghostly lights flitted around the house, 
and various members of the family were struck by unseen hands. 
At times the demonic family sang sweetly, and the " witch " quoted 
Scripture with astonishing accuracy. In 1817 " Mr. Bell, while 
walking through his corn field, was confronted by a strange animal, 
unlike any he had ever seen, sitting in a corn row, gazing stead- 
fastly at him as he approached nearer. He concluded that it was 
probably a dog, and having his gun in hand, shot at it, when the 
animal ran off. Some days after, in the late afternoon, Drew Bell 
observed a very large fowl, which he supposed to be a wild turkey, 
as it perched upon the fence, and ran in the house for a gun to 
kill it. As he approached within shooting distance, the bird 
flapped its wings and sailed away, and then he was mystified in 
discovering that it was not a turkey, but some unknown bird of 
extraordinary size. Betsy walked out one evening soon after this 

■ At intervals the " witch " frequented other places in the community, 
among them Fort's mill, ahout a mile from John Bell's house. The 
machinery was often heard running at night after the miller had left the 
building (p. 61). 

"Anonymos, Dicke, Bonjour, Wilkin, Lustie Jollie-Jenkin, Corner-Cap, 
Pippin, and such like appear in a list of names of devils from Harsnet's 
Declaration of Egregious Popish Impostures (L., 1603), famous because of 
its association with Shakespeare's King Lear (cf. N. & Q., Sec. Ser., vii 
[1859], 144). See further Ashton, The Devil in Britain and America, 
p. 160 ff. 



Tom Peete Cross 239 

with the children, among the big forest trees near the house, and 
saw something which she described as a pretty little girl dressed 
in green, swinging to a limb of a tall oak. Then came Dean, the 
[negro] servant, reporting that a large black dog came in the 
road in front of him at a certain place, every night that he visited 
his wife Kate, who belonged to Alex. Gunn [a neighbor], and 
trotted along before him to the cabin door and then disappeared " 
(p. 25 ). 57 "The Goblin's favorite form, however, was that of a 
rabbit, . . . the hare ghost took malicious pleasure in hopping out 
into the road, showing itself to every one who passed through [the 
lane in front of the house] ." 58 

Witch-doctors and other persons attempted repeatedly to discover 
the cause of the strange events, but to no purpose. " The want of 
some satisfactory explanation or the failure of all investigators to 
throw light on the witch mystery, gave rise to the speculative idea 
that John and Drew Bell had learned ventriloquism and some 
subtle art. . . , and taught the same to their sister Betsy, for the 
purpose of attracting people and making money" (p. 41), but, as 
investigation showed, it was no such matter. 

The unseen visitor's own account of itself was far from satis- 
factory. At one time it claimed to be the spirit of a child buried 
in North Carolina. At another it was a disturbed ghost seeking 
a lost tooth under the Bell house. When, however, the flooring was 
removed and the dirt sifted, no tooth was found, and a mocking 
voice from the air declared it was " all a joke to fool ' Old Jack '," 
as the " witch " called John Bell. On another occasion it was the 
ghost of an early settler, come back to reveal the whereabouts of 
hid treasure ; but the money was not found, and the " witch " 

87 Later in the book the author gives an account of an interview with the 
negro's sister-in-law, in which the latter said that Dean carried a " witch- 
hall " to protect him from evil influences, and that the dog, when seen by 
him on another occasion, had two heads (p. 222). 

58 " This same rabbit," adds Mr. Ingram with a faint suggestion of 
humor, " is there plentifully to this day, and can't be exterminated. Very 
few men know a witch rabbit; only experts can distinguish it from the 
ordinary molly cotton tail. The experts in that section, however, are 
numerous, and no one to this good day will eat a rabbit that has a black 
spot on the bottom of its felt hind foot. When the spot is found, the foot 
is carefully cut off and placed in the hip pocket, and the body buried on 
the north side of an old log " (p. 57). 



240 Witchcraft in North Carolina 

ridiculed the seekers. Again it called itself " old Kate Batts' 
witch," an appellation by which it was afterwards known. 

Kate Batts was a sort of gigantic Mrs. Malaprop, whose propen- 
sity for using long words and whose evil tongue made her at once 
the laughing stock and the terror of the neighborhood. After the 
"witch's" assertion it was recalled not only that Mrs. Batts had 
an old grudge against John Bell, but also that certain events 
connected with her history savored strongly of witchcraft. She 
had a habit of " begging a brass pin of every woman she met, which 
trifle," adds the author, " was supposed to give her power over the 
donor" (p. 63). "The most incontrovertible evidence [however] 
was that a certain girl in the vicinity was given the task of 
churning, and after working the dasher diligently for two hours 
without reward, and no sign of butter coming, she declared that 
old Kate Batts had bewitched the milk and she determined to burn 
her. Carrying out this decision, she stuck an iron poker in the 
fire, and after it had come to a white heat, she soused the iron into 
the milk, setting the churn away ; then making some excuse for the 
visit, she called on Aunt Kate to ascertain the result of her experi- 
ment, and found Mrs. Batts sitting in the corner nursing a burnt 
hand, which had been badly blistered through a mistake in taking 
the poker by the hot end that morning" (p. 69 f.). Mrs. Batts 
violently denied all connection with the Bell " witch," and the 
matter was never brought to a test. 

Whatever may have been the cause of the phenomena described 
by Mr. Ingram, the persecution of the " witch " brought naught 
but sorrow to the Bells. The father became despondent and in 
1820 died; Betsy was forced to give up her lover, and the house- 
hold was finally broken up. 

The following clipping, taken apparently from the query column 
of the Nashville, Tennessee, Banner, has some bearing on the 
events described in Mr. Ingram's book : 

" ' Is there such a thing as a Bell Witch near Springfield, Tenn. ? If so, 
please tell some of its doings of the past.' 

"A great many of the most reputable among the older citizens of 
Springfield and Robertson County are convinced that there was an unex- 
plainable manifestation of some sort which was generally regarded as a 
ghost, and which came to be called the Bell Witch. It was said to jump 
on the steeds of men returning home from Springfield after dark, shriek 
in an unearthly manner and of other alarming things ( sic ) . In the 



Tom Peete Cross 241 

eighties, when there was a recurrence of what was supposed to he the Bell 
Witch manifestations, the Banner sent Mr. John C. Cooke to investigate. 
He concluded that there was not at that time any supernatural manifesta- 
tion, though he heard noises that were not explained. Mr. Cook (sic) is 
still a member of the Banner staff. While he does not accept the ghost 
theory, he is convinced that there was a mysterious something that alarmed 
many of the most intelligent people of that community. Mr. Martin V. 
Ingram of Clarksville wrote a book undertaking to give all the facts and 
circumstances in which the Bell Witch figured, and this book can probably 
be obtained from second-hand book dealers." 

The student of folk-lore will recognize at once that we are here 59 
dealing with a series of phenomena long associated with haunted 
houses. 60 Buildings rendered uninhabitable by terrorizing agencies 
have existed in fact from time immemorial, and their horrors have 
formed the basis of skeptical or sympathetic treatment from the 
ancient classical drama to the more modern Gothic romance and 
the contemporary penny-dreadful. Moreover, it should be observed 
that, although houses may be haunted by vampires, ghosts, and 
other uncanny beings not necessarily associated with witchcraft, 
the ills which befall the occupants have frequently been attributed 
to maleficium. During the great period of witch mania in Western 
Europe many buildings in the British Isles and on the Continent 
were disturbed by the Devil or his human emissaries. A few well 
authenticated instances of English and American houses troubled 
by diabolic forces will make it obvious that the agency responsible 
for the misfortunes of the Bell family did but illustrate the exces- 
sive conservativeness with which the powers of evil stick to tra- 
dition. 4 

59 Events closely resembling those described in The Bell Witch are out- 
lined by E. B. Miles in a series of sketches of life in the Cumberlands 
(The Spirit of the Mountains, p. 108 ff.). They concern "an old woman, 
or the spirit of one," who annoyed the family of Beaver. As a result of 
the visitations the head of the family pined and died. 

60 On demon- and witch-haunted houses, see Kittredge, Harvard Studies 
and Notes, vrn, 227, n. 2; Chas. Mackay, Memoirs of Extraordinary 
Popular Delusions, London, 1869, p. 217 ff.; J. H. Ingram, The Haunted 
Homes and Family Traditions of Great Britain, London, 1888; Andrew 
Lang, Booh of Dreams and Ghosts, Longmans, 1897, p. 187 ff. Compare 
the ill-disposed haunting spirits in Wirt Sikes, British Goblins, London, 
1880, p. 143 ff.; Catherine Crowe, The Night Side of Nature, ed., E. A. 
Baker, London and New York, 1904, p. 302 ff. 



242 Witchcraft in North Carolina 

In 1649 the Parliamentary commissioners who had established 
themselves in the palace of Woodstock for the purpose of surveying 
the royal demesne after the execution of Charles I, were so pestered 
by strange noises, unaccountable movements of furniture, and other 
extraordinary phenomena, that they gave up the work. 61 About 
the middle of the century a family living at Stratford-Bow was 
annoyed by an invisible agency which disarranged the furniture 
and threw stones and bricks through the window. An eyewitness 
was convinced that " it was neither the tricks of Waggs, nor the 
fancy of a Woman, but the mad frolicks of Witches and Daemons. 
Which they of the house being fully persuaded of, roasted a Bed- 
staff, upon which an old Woman, a suspected Witch, came to the 
House, and was apprehended, but escaped the Law. But the House 
after was so ill haunted in all the Kooms, upper and lower, that the 
House stood empty for a long time." 62 In 1654-5 the family of 
Gilbert Campbell, a weaver living in Galloway, Scotland, under- 
went a series of similar annoyances as the result of Campbell's 
having refused alms to a sturdy beggar named Alexander Agnew, 
" who afterwards was hanged at Dumfries, for Blasphemy." When 
questioned by the minister, an invisible demon confessed that he 
was the author of the trouble and showed himself even more learned 
in the Scriptures than did Kate Batts. 63 About the year 1661 a 
series of persecutions strikingly similar to those described in The 
Bell Witch were suffered by the household of Mr. John Mompesson, 
of Tedworth, Wilts. An invisible force pulled the children's hair 
and night-clothes and even lifted the children themselves bodily 
out of bed, scattered the grandmother's garments and hid her bible . 
in the hearth, moved furniture, opened and shut doors, and 

81 The commissioners blamed the disturbance on the Devil, but an 
eighteenth-century tradition, which it must be admitted is not above 
suspicion, has it that the perpetrator was one John Collins, a loyalist who, 
by concealing his real opinions secured a place with the commission and 
who was well acquainted with the trap-doors and secret passages of the 
building. Cf. Ashton, op. cit., p. 45 f.; Mackay, Memoirs, p. 224*. The 
story of the commissioners' experiences is told in a pamphlet entitled The 
Just Devil of Woodstock, etc., London, 1660 (whence it is repeated by 
Ashton, op. cit., p. 28 ff.), in Glanvill's Sadduc. Triumph., p. 403 ff. (whence 
it is summarized by Mackay, Memoirs, p. 221 ff.), and in Wright's Narra- 
tives, n, p. 167 ff. 

82 Sadduc. Triumph., p. 361 ff. 

"Ibid., p. 412 ff.; Ashton, The Devil in Britain and America, p. 73 ff. 



Torn Peete Cross 243 

sprinkled ashes in the beds. Mysterious sounds, at times resem- 
bling the beat of a drum, resounded through the house, music was 
heard in the chimney, and once lights were seen. " One of them 
[the lights] came into Mr. Mompesson's Chamber, which seemed 
blue and glimmering, and caused great stiffness in the Eyes of 
those that saw it." On the morning after a particularly violent 
exhibition of preternaturalism tracks of claws were seen in the 
ashes, and sulphurous and otherwise noisome odors filled the house. 
The invisible disturber, when questioned as to its identity, indi- 
cated that it was Satan acting in the service of a drummer whom 
Mr. Mompesson had previously arrested for vagrancy. The drum- 
mer was accordingly tried for witchcraft and deported. Many 
persons visited the house out of pious curiosity, and skeptics whis- 
pered that the sorely vexed gentleman had got up the report " as 
a trick to get Money from those that came to see the Prodigy," 
but the accusation was denied by the orthodox. The doings of the 
" Daemon of Tedworth " were important enough to attract the 
attention of the famous Joseph Glanvill, who devoted to them a 
dissertation. 64 The story is retold in the " Choice Collection of 
Modern Eelations " appended by Henry More to Glanvill's notable 
defence of witchcraft, Sadducismus Triumphatus, 65 whence it is 
summarized as valuable evidence of the existence of witches by 
Increase Mather in his Remarkable Providences, published at 
Boston in 1684. 66 

That in house-haunting as in other matters pertaining to their 
unhallowed profession, the witches of the New World followed the 
lead of their exemplars across the Atlantic, will be recalled at once 
by all readers of early New England literature, especially Increase 
Mather's book just referred to and his famous son Cotton's 
Wonders of the Invisible World. To multiply instances is unnec- 
essary. The cases enumerated above demonstrate clearly that the 
Bell witch, far from exciting wonder by the novelty of her tactics, 
is remarkable only for her lack of invention. 

** Palpable Evidence of Spirits and Witchcraft. The only copy the writer 
has seen was published in London in 1668. Glanvill's account is repeated 
by Ashton, op. cit., p. 47 ff. 

"P. 270 ff. of the 1726 edition. For other seventeenth-century evidence, 
see Ashton, op. cit., p. 64 ff.; Sadduc. Triumph., p. 366 ff. See further 
Wright, Narratives, n, p. 336 ff. 

M Cf. Burr, Narratives, p. 32 f. 



244 Witchcraft in North Carolina 

Returning to the matter of witch transformation, we observe 
that witches are constantly confused with fairies 67 and other shape- 
shifters, and that consequently, like the beautiful and immortal 
fees of mediaeval romance, they sometimes assume the form of 
deer. The account given below was received from the Virginia 
negress who furnished the data on witch marks. 68 A woman who 
was a witch became enamored of a man on a neighboring plantation, 
and, in order to approach him, changed herself into a doe and 
appeared at his " hog-f eedin' " place, whither she knew he came 
daily to bring corn to his stock. The man, supposing the animal 
to be an ordinary deer, shot at it, but without effect. He then 
loaded his gun with "a four-pence-ha'-penny cut into four 
parts," 69 and succeeded in shooting off one of the doe's feet. 
Imbedded in the hoof he found a ring which he recognized as 
belonging to his would-be mistress. He afterwards discovered that 
the woman was minus a hand. 

The following story from Beaufort County, North Carolina, is 
condensed from a narrative communicated by Eev. G. Calvin 
Campbell (colored), who writes that the tradition has long been 
current in that district. An old woman who lived in a dilapidated 
log house near a swamp some distance from the public road, made 
a practice of turning herself into a deer, in which form she was 
frequently chased by a pack of hounds belonging to certain hunters 
in the community. The deer always followed the same trail and 
disappeared at the same place. Since the transformed witch 
invariably ran along a path used by real deer, the hunters were 
for a long time deceived. When, however, several of the best 
marksmen in the county had shot at the animal unsuccessfully, 
the hunters suspected that they really had to do with the old hag 
in disguise. They accordingly mixed silver with their buck-shot, 
and when next they shot at the witch-deer, they succeeded in 
wounding it. The animal escaped and was never seen again. 

87 For many examples, see Sir Walter Scott, Letters on Demonology, etc., 
edn. cit., p. 118 ff. See further Reginald Scot, op. tit., p. 19, where the 
witches' Sabbath is identified with the fairies' dance, and the " ladie of the 
fairies " is said to preside with the Devil at witch meetings. Glanvill's 
Sadduc. Triumph, (edn. cit., p. 356 ff.) contains a story which clearly 
illustrates how easily witches are confused with fairy beings. 

68 Cf. J. A. F.L., xxn (1909), 251 f. 

99 A small silver coin, said to be worth six and a quarter cents. 



Tom Peete Cross 245 

" They say that the suspected old woman had a sore limb for a 
long time after this and that it could not be cured." 

In Scott County, Tennessee, a hunter whose gun had been 
bewitched, tried in vain to kill a mysterious deer which waited for 
him to shoot three times before running away. By the advice of 
a witch-doctor he used as a mark a tree to which he gave the name 
of the woman suspected of having spelled the weapon. When the 
tree was struck, the woman cried out and the charm was broken. 70 
The animal here referred to is doubtless kin to the supernatural 
stag which roams the mountains in various parts of the Alleghanies 
and which has so often eluded the most skillful hunters. 71 

,0 J. A. F.-L., xra (1900), 209 f. For other methods of counteracting the 
charms placed by witches upon weapons, see Andree, Ethnographische 
Parallellen u. Vergleiche, p. 42 ff. Eph Tucker (on whom, see above, 
p. 231), told Mr. Thomas Smith a story in which a witch appeared in the 
form of a bear, but I know of no other case in North Carolina. It seems 
that ' Ole Ferro ' had taken a dislike to a certain man in the community. 
One night the man saw " a big thing like a bear a-walkin' the jist (joists) 
over his bed all night. The man said he tried to shoot the thing, but his 
gun wouldn't shoot, and he had to set there and watch that ole bear or 
whatever it wuz all night a-walkin' on the jist back'ards and for'ards right 
over his bed." 

71 For an account of this animal, see J. A. F.-L., xni (1900), 211. For 
the proper method of killing it, see J. A. F.-L., in (1890), 202; and infra, 
pp. 284 f. Cf. Horace Kephart, Our Southern Highlanders, Outing Pub. 
Co., 1913, p. 91. See further J. A. F.-L., vn (1894), 109, where reference is 
made to the black dog of the vale of Chatata, the gray wolf seen at mid- 
night where the road from West Virginia crosses Piney Ridge, the headless 
bull of southeastern Tennessee, and the bleeding horse of the Smoky 
Mountains of Georgia. On these, see also Chas. H. Skinner, Myths and 
Legends of Our Own Land, Lippincott, n [N. D.], 68 f. Supernatural 
appearances of a similar character are reported in a recent communication 
to the North Carolina Folk-Lore Society by Mr. Thomas Smith, of Zionville. 
One of these is connected with the " Big Laurel," a dense jungle of 
" laurel," " ivy," and other mountain shrubs in the western part of 
Watauga County. The appearance of " hants " in this district is attested 
by many reliable citizens, among whom, says Mr. Smith, is Dr. Rivers, 
formerly a well known physician of Boone. While traversing the Laurel 
one morning just before daylight a few years after the Civil War, the 
doctor saw a strange man seated on a gray horse exactly like his own. A 
moment later horse and man had vanished. Not long afterwards the 
doctor died, and it was believed that the spectral horseman had come as a 
warning of his approaching demise. One of Mr. Smith's informants 
accounts for the large number of " hants " in the district by the suggestion 



246 Witchcraft in North Carolina 

that " the Indians who used to camp here of a summer may have murdered 
one of their tribe and buried him in or near the Laurel." The scene of 
another of Mr. Smith's stories is a spring situated by the roadside a mile 
east of Watauga Biver. " The reputation of the place for being haunted 
is known to scores of people." One of them, Andrew Wilson, a reliable 
farmer living near Zionville, tells the following : " I was coming from 
Elk Park one night about twenty years ago. I'd been there with a load 
of lumber. When I come to the spring where the ghosts are seen, I stopped 
to let my horses drink. The horses wouldn't drink, and they seemed like 
they was skeered. Just then I looked ahead of me in the road and seed 
a man a-standing there. I could see he had shiny brass buttons on his 
coat like a soldier. Thinking it was somebody, I says, ' Howdy ? ' It didn't 
make no reply; so I spoke agin, but it didn't notice me. I watched it 
several minutes, and while I was a-gazin' at it, the thing jist seemed to 
fade away, and I could never see where it went to. I tell ye, I drove off 
from there in a hurry. But I didn't see the worst things that are seen 
there," continued Mr. Wilson. " Why, lots and lots of people have passed 
there of nights and seed the strangest things you ever heard tell of. They 
first see seven 'possums cross the road and go into a laurel thicket near 
the spring; then seven dogs follow right after the 'possums; then seven 
men cross the road right after the dogs into the laurel; and right after 
the men they see seven coffins sail across the road into the laurel thicket. 
I know of men who say they have seed all them skeery hants. Yes, there 
was men murdered there before the War; that's what causes them strange 
things to be seed." Several of Mr. Smith's stories concern a headless dog 
that used to emerge from a pile of rocks marking the site of an old school- 
house near the road from Cove Creek to Brushy Fork. Though the cause 
of the dog's appearing at just this place has never been discovered, it has 
been hinted that a traveler and his dog were killed there by robbers and 
buried under the school-house. Several reliable persons living on Cove 
Creek have heard of or seen the headless dog. On one occation the animal 
followed a man who was passing along the road on horseback after dark. 
The traveller put spurs to his horse, but the dog followed swiftly and 
leaped on the horse's back. The frightened rider, on looking over his 
shoulder, saw the creature sitting behind him, its bloody neck almost 
touching his back. By the time he had reached a settlement several miles 
distant, the dog had disappeared. Cf. Sikes, British Goblins, p. 168 ff. 
Some thirty years ago three young men were returning home one night 
from a " meetin' " on Brushy Fork. Some distance beyond the pile of 
rocks, one of the company, happening to glance behind, saw a large black 
dog following them. The animal was headless, and although the moon 
shone bright, it cast no shadow. The young men hurried on, but the dog 
overtook them, and even ran ahead, gamboling and rolling at their feet. 
One of them struck it with his cane, but the stick passed through its body 
as through thin air. When they reached a creek two miles farther on, the 
apparition turned back, though with evident reluctance. In ante-bellum 
days the negroes of certain parts of South Carolina knew a " hant " called 
" Plat-eye," which generally appeared in the form of a dog (J. A. F.-L., 



Tom Peete Cross 247 

As Professor John M. McBryde pointed out some years ago, 72 
the hare has long figured in the mythology of various peoples. 
Owing doubtless to its generally uncanny character, it served as 
a disguise for witches during the sixteenth and seventeenth cen- 
turies, 73 and today it is connected with several omens of good or 
ill fortune. For example, in the mountains of North Carolina, as 
elsewhere in the United States, it is bad luck for a rabbit to cross 
the path in front of a traveller. 74 " The left hind foot of a grave- 



xxvii (1914), 248). For similar superstitions on the "Eastern Shore" of 
Virginia, see J. C. Wise, Ye Kingdome of Accawmacke, p. 334. Mr. Coon 
records a belief, current formerly in Lincoln County, North Carolina, that 
witches sometimes walked the rail fences on all fours, " displaying large, 
naming red eyes." In 1612 a witness in an English witchcraft trial 
deposed that a witch had appeared to her in the form of a black dog with 
two legs and had tried to persuade her to drown herself (Thomas Wright, 
Narratives, 11, 128). For additional seventeenth century evidence, see 
Glanvil, op. tit., 295; A. M. Gummere, Witchcraft and Quakerism, Phila. 
and London, 1908, p. 31. The story about Dr. Rivers suggests the whole 
class of supernatural warnings of approaching death, of which many 
examples are said to be current in North Carolina. One of these, recorded 
by Mr. Smith, concerns ' Little Booney ' Potter, a desperate character who 
formerly lived in North Fork township and who was killed in an encounter 
with a sheriff's posse. A few nights before Potter's death the desperado's 
bed-fellow was terrified by " somthin' big and heavy [that] came and sot 
down right on the bed." Although the thing did not leave until nearly 
daylight. Potter slept undisturbed. Later his companion said he was sure 
the visitation had foretold Potter's death. It would be interesting to 
discover whether phantom ships are still seen along the Carolina coast. 
Lawson (writing early in the eighteenth century) records a report "the 
truth of [which] has been affirmed to me, by men of the best Credit in 
the Country," " that the Ship which brought the first Colonies, does often 
appear amongst them [the people of Roanoke Island] under sail, in a 
most gallant Posture, which they call Sir Walter Raleigh's Ship" (op. 
tit., p. 34). A shadowy craft used to appear on the Rappahannock River, 
Va. (Skinner, Myths and Legends of Our Own Land, n, 71). 

""Sewanee Rev., April, 1911. Cf. "Mythology of All Races," x (North 
American) , p. 67. 

73 In 1663 a witch named Julian Cox, of Somersetshire, England, was 
accused of transforming herself into a hare (Glanvil, op. tit., p. 326). In 
another account a ghost assumes the form of a hare (Ibid., p. 337 f.) See 
further Notestein, op. tit., p. 171 ; Matthew Hopkins, Discovery of Witches, 
London, 1647, p. 2. The devil's mark is sometimes said to resemble the 
impression of a hare's foot (Black, Folk-Medicine, p. 155). 

H J. A. F.-L., xx (1907), 245. Cf. So. Workman, xxxni (1904), 52; 
xxxv, 634. In County Clare, Ireland, both fairies and witches take the 



248 Witchcraft in North Carolina 

yard rabbit killed in the dark of the moon " brings good fortune, 75 
and, as every reader of Uncle Eemus knows, a graveyard rabbit, 
like a witch, cannot be killed with ordinary shot. 

The bad reputation of toads is of extremely long standing, 76 and 
their association with suspected witches as familiars was constantly 
introduced as evidence before courts of justice during the sixteenth 
and seventeenth centuries. 77 We all remember that one of the 
ingredients of the witches' caldron in Macbeth was a 

Toad, that under cold stone 
Days and nights has thirty-one 
Sweltered venom sleeping got, 

and that when Milton's Satan wished to tempt Eve, he " squat 
like a toad" at her ear. Today American witches who take the 
form of toads seem to be rare, 78 but it is well known in western 
North Carolina that, if you kill a toad, your cows will give bloody 

form of rahbits (Folk-Lore, xxi (1910), 483; xxil, 449). An Irish story 
tells how a hare hitten hy hounds ran into a cottage, " where an old woman 
was found torn hehind " (Folk-Lore, xxin (1912), 214). 

n J. A. F.-L., xxvri (1914), 247 (S. C.-negro?). On the rabbit in popu- 
lar lore, see Black, op. tit., p. 154 f; Karl Knortz, Zur amerikanischen 
Volkskunde, TUbingen, 1905, p. 10; Amerikamscher Aberglaube der Oegen- 
wart, Leipzig, 1913, p. 35 ff. 

M On the frog and the toad in literature and folk-lore, see Karl Knortz, 
Reptilien u. Amphibien in Sage, Sitte u. Literatur, Annaberg (Saehsen), 
1911, pp. 30 ff., 69 ff. 

TT Cf. Notestein, op. tit, pp. 160 ff., 184, 261. There seem to be few 
American witches who take the form of snakes. A Guilford County story 
tells of a little girl who had a snake with which she used to eat. The lives of 
the two were so intimately connected that, when the snake was killed, the 
girl died (J. A. F.-L., xxx, 185). On a snake woman married to a Mary- 
land man, see J. A. F.-L., xn (1899), 68 f. Cf. the same journal, vol. 
xn, 228 ff.; So. Workman, xvty (1900), 180. Lawson reports that the 
Indians of North Carolina avoided killing a snake for fear " some of the 
Serpents Kindred would kill some of the Savages Relations that should 
destroy him" (op. tit., p. 124). He also records an Indian tradition 
regarding a demon snake that devoured " Great Canoes full of Indians, at 
a time" (op. tit., p. 127). Cf. Kittredge, The Old Farmer, p. 108. Heads, 
skins, and oil of snakes are, of course, common in the practice of witch- 
craft and of popular medicine in the South. See infra, p. 265 ff. 

78 For an instance, see J. A. F.-L., xvii (1904), 265. A Guilford County 
story tells of a woman who had a diabolical stuffed frog (J. A. F.-L., xxx, 
183 f. -negro). 



Tom Peete Cross 249 

milk, 79 — a misfortune which often results from the machinations 
of witches. According to a peculiar belief current not long ago in 
the Alleghany Mountains, " toads are often kept by witches instead 
of chickens, and their eggs are known from the fact that it is very 
difficult to break their shells. When these creatures are dilatory 
in laying, the witch switches them, and then for a time the toads 
become very prolific. Most frequently she keeps the reptiles in a 
hollow stump." 80 Because of their supposed venomous character 
toads were formerly much used in the practice of medicine to 
drive out less virulent poisons, and it is still a popular belief in 
eastern North Carolina that a live toad-frog cut in two and applied 
to the bite of a mad dog will draw out the venom. 81 

Throughout the Southern States the " screech-owl," like the 
raven of European tradition, is regarded with suspicion. 82 It is 
used as a disguise by witches, and the charms to prevent its 
" hollo'ing " are also effective against witchcraft. 83 

78 J. A. F.-L., XX (1907), 244. If you kill frogs, your cows will go dry 
(J. A. F.-L., vii (1894), 306 (Ga.). In Knott County, Ky., as in eastern 
Virginia and elsewhere in the United States, handling toads causes warts 
on the hand. The excrescences may be removed by selling them to a witch, 
who will pay for them with pins (J. A. F.-L., xxiv, 319). For other ways 
of removing warts, see infra, pp. 261 f. In New England handling toads 
causes freckles (F. D. Bergen, Animal and Plant Lore, p. 88). Cf. Pop. 
Sci. Mo., xxxrx (1891), 378. For a toad to enter the house is a sure sign 
of approaching death (So. Workman, xxxin [1904], 51; Ala.-negro). 
Among the mountain whites of the South witches may be prevented from 
entering a house by drawing a picture of a frog's foot on the entrance 
(J. A. F.-L., vn (1894), 113). 'Cf. the same journal, vol. iv (1891), 324. 
On the magical properties of the toad, see F. D. Bergen, op. tit., p. 126. 

•V. A. F.-L., vn (1894), 116. 

81 In 1657 Sir Kenelm Digby wrote: "The Farcy is a venemous and 
contagious humor Within the body of a Horse: hang a toad about the 
neck of the Horse in a little bag and he will be cured infallibly: the Toad, 
which is the stronger poyson, drawing to it the venome which was within 
the Horse." Of the Sympathetick Powder, A Discourse in Solemn Assem- 
bly, at Montpellier. Made in French, by Sir Kenelm Digby, Knight, 1651, 
London, 1669, p. 176. Cf. N. Y. Med. J., Feby. 19, 1916. See further, infra. 
p. 253, n. 97. I ! ! / ' i 

82 See J. A. F.L., vn (1894), 305; xn (1899), 269 (Ga.). Cf. vol. vi 
(1893), 70 (N. H.). 

83 Cf. F. D. Bergen, Animal and Plant Lore, p. 20. Brickell asserts that 
in his day the screech-owl was eaten by Indians and negroes, that its 
flesh cures palsy and melancholy, and that its grease strengthens the eye- 
sight {Natural History, edn. tit., p. 178 f.). 



250 Witchcraft in North Carolina 

In order to change from human into animal form, witches 
visually rub themselves with an ointment — a method which, it will 
be recalled, was used by Phoebe Ward, the Northampton County 
witch. Early recipes often call for grease distilled from corpses 
as one of the chief ingredients of witch ointment ; 84 today among 
the negroes of Georgia " witch-butter " may be prepared from the 
fat of graveyard snakes (descendants of the original serpent in the 
Garden of Eden). 85 

From time immemorial witches have been endowed with varied 
and extensive powers of venting their malignancy upon humanity. 
" If it were true that witches confesse, or that all writers write, or 
that witchmongers report, or that fooles beleeve," wrote Reginald 
Scot, " we should never have butter in the chearne, nor cow in the 
close, nor corne in the field, nor faire weather abroad, nor health 
within doores." 86 Though the gradual spread of skepticism 

84 An early authority declares that the devil teaches witches " to make 
ointments of the bowels and members of children, whereby they ride in 
the aire, and accomplish all their desires" (Cf. Scot, op. cit., 31). See 
further infra, p. 271, n. 162. In 1664 an English witch confessed that she 
and other witches were able to fly through the air by rubbing their fore- 
heads and wrists with a ' raw smelling ' oil furnished by a familiar spirit. 
(Sadduc. Triumph., 297). 

86 Whoever rubs himself with the ' butter ' becomes invisible, " 'case Satan 
is 'bleged to stan' by folks what are greased wid his grease" (J. A. F.-L., 
xxv (1912), 134). In 1828 Dr. Elisha Mitchell, while on a geological 
tour in the extreme northwestern portion of North Carolina, wrote to his 
wife : " While breakfast was getting ready heard an amusing account of 
an old man who determined the locality of ores by the mineral rod, and 
by his own account is very busy in digging for gold and silver taken 
from the Whites by the Indians, and laid up in ' subteranium cham- 
bers.' Said he greased his boots with dead men's tallow, and is prevented 
from getting the treasure out not by the little spirit with head no bigger 
than his two thumbs who came to blow the candle out, but by the big two 
horned devil himself." (James Sprunt Historical Monograph, No. 6 
(1905), pub. by the University of North Carolina, p. 25). An amusing 
parallel to Lucius' misfortune in Apuleius' witch story was current not 
long ago in the Alleghany mountains. A witch's husband accidentally ate 
some corn-meal dough upon which his wife had put a spell in order to 
make her hens lay. As a result the poor fellow lost the power of speech 
and could only cackle like a hen (J. A. F.-L., vn (1894), 116). Scot 
(op. cit., p. 75 f.) quotes a story of a man who was transformed into an 
ass by eating bewitched eggs. On the general subject of transformation 
by means of witch-ointment, see Grimm, Deut. Mythol., XX, 895, n. 2. 

••Cf. Addison's remarks in The Spectator, No. cxvii. 



Tom Peete Cross 251 

regarding the reality of black magic has within the last few gen- 
erations somewhat circumscribed the witch's power of doing harm, 
many well authenticated cases of sickness and death of man and 
beast, still testify to the amazing vitality of the superstition. 87 

87 For evidence, see 0. M. Hueffer, The Book of Witches, London, 1908, 
Chaps. I and xvi; Linton, op. tit., p. 426 ff.; J. A. F.-L., n (1889), 233; 
in, 281 f.; x, 242 f.; xiv, 173 ff.; xxvrr, 320 f. For a noteworthy early 
instance of wholesale death of human beings and cattle by witchcraft, see 
The Northamptonshire Witches, Being a true and faithful Account ~bf the 
Births, Educations, Lives, and Conversations of Elinor Shaw and Mary 
Phillips, London, 1705, p. 6. The defendants were shown to have killed 
fifteen children, eight men, and six women, besides sundry cattle. See 
further Scot, op. tit., passim; the "Choice Collection of Modern Rela- 
tions" appended to the fourth (1726) edition of Joseph Glanvill's Saddu- 
cismus Triumphatus; Grimm, Deut. Mythol., n, 896 f. Cases of witch- 
craft are still brought from time to time before our courts of justice. See, 
for example, J. A. F.-L., iv (1891), 325 (Pa.) ; vn, 144; xn, 289 f.; xvn, 
90; xrx, 174 f.; cf. I, 30, note. Modern spiritualists, hypnotists, faith- 
healers, and fortune-tellers, as well as operators of many "confidence- 
games " have inherited much from the witches and wizards of the past. 
See " The Revival of Witchcraft," Pop. Sci. Mon., xliii ( 1893) ; Karl Knortz, 
Zur amerikanischen Volkskunde, p. 21 ff. Ever since the witch of Endor 
called up Samuel at the request of Saul, witches have sought to foretell 
the future by communing with the spirits of the dead. One instance is 
recorded of a North Carolina woman who asked the services of a male 
witch to raise the spirit of her dead husband so that she might learn 
where he had concealed his money (J. A. F.-L., n (1889), 101). The 
story of Saul and the witch of Endor gave mediaeval commentators a world 
of trouble. Cf. Scot, op. tit., p. Ill ff., for many references. Are witches 
in North Carolina ever accused of raising storms? The charge was fre- 
quently made against witches three hundred years ago. See Scot, op. tit., 
p. 47 f . ; Sadduc. Triumph., p. 397. Cf. Thomas Ady, A Candle in the 
Dark, London, 1656, p. 117 f. The early colonists of North Carolina be- 
lieved that Indian conjurers could create storms of wind (Brickell, op. tit., 
p. 370). An instance of a favorable wind created by a friendly Indian for 
the benefit of European sailors, is given in the Colonial Records of North 
Carolina, I (1886), 983. Cf. Colonel William Byrd's jocose reference in a 
letter of Oct. 22, 1735 (Va. Mag. of Hist, and Biog., rx, 231). In New 
England Indian sorcerers, like the witch in Macbeth (i, iii, 10), could sink 
ships by gnawing holes in the bottom {Old South Leaflets, ill, No. 54, p. 3). 
The power of influencing the weather has been attributed to the magicians 
of many peoples. A whole chapter has been devoted to the subject of 
weather-makers by Lieutenant F. S. Bassett in his Sea Phantoms, Chicago, 
1892, p. 101 ff. Cf. Cockayne, Leechdoms, I, p. xlviiff. ; Martino Delrio, 
Disquisitionum magicarum libri sex, Moguntiae, 1617, Bk. rr, xi, p. 140; 
Ashton, op. tit., p. 80 ff. 



252 Witchcraft in North Carolina 

Among the mountain whites of the South witches still injure the 
minds and bodies of men and women, stunt the growth of children, 
make cows give bloody milk, prevent the formation of butter and 
soap, and render fire-arms useless. 88 In a negro story from Guil- 
ford County a witch prevented a man's wife from having a child 
until the "trick," which was hidden in the chimney-corner, was 
found and the spell broken. 89 Mr. Coon, referring to conditions 
in Lincoln County during the first half of the last century, writes : 

"Witches were frequently supposed not only to exert their evil influ- 
ences upon human beings hut also upon hogs, cattle, fowls, cats, dogs, and 
the like. If a cow went ' dry,' the witches were often charged with it. 
If the hogs or the cattle became diseased, the witches were supposed to 
have been exercising their spells and a witch doctor was called in to try 
to restore them to health again. . . . Sometimes a ' witch-man ' would 
come to a shooting match and spoil the ' luck.' On such occasions the 
participants would immediately disperse, saying that no prizes could be 
won while a ' witch-man ' was in their midst." 

Mr. J. P. Arthur records a story told by the late Colonel Allen 
T. Davidson about a famous hunter named Neddy McFalls, who 
" traveled from Cataloochee to Waynesville to have a witch-doctor 
— a woman — remove a ' spell ' he thought someone had put on his 
Gillespie rifle." 90 

The means by which Southern witches of today attain their ends 
are many. They vary all the way from incantations and other 
practices universally associated with witchcraft and obviously based 
originally on well recognized principles of magic, to cheap 

*Cf. J. A. F.-L., vii (1894), 114; F. D. Berger, Animal and Plant Lore, 
p. 15 (Mitchell Co., N. C). Among the Hudson Bay Indians, if a woman 
steps over a gun, the weapon becomes useless (lAndrge, op. cit., p. 43). 
In the North Carolina version of the familiar children's game beginning 
" Chick-ur-mur, chick -ur-mur, Cravy (or Crany, or Cramy) Crow" and 
known as " Hawk and Chickens " or " Hen and Chickens," an " Old 
Witch " take the place of the " Hawk " in attempting to steal the children 
(J. A. F.-L., v (1892), 119). For the English versions, see A. B. Gomme, 
The Traditional Games of England, Scotland, and Ireland, London, 1894, 
I, 201. Cf. vol. ii, 391 ff., and W. W. Newell, Games and Songs of American 
Children, p. 215 ff. 

w «7. A. F.-L., xxx, 180. 

80 Western North Carolina, Raleigh, 1914, pp. 290, n. 10, 336. A fair 
estimate of the general value of Mr. Arthur's book is given by Archibald 
Henderson, Am. Eist. Rev., xx, 890. 



Tom Peete Cross 253 

" conjer " or " tricks," the rationale of which is difficult to deter- 
mine. In some parts of the Alleghany Mountains there dwells a 
being who inveigles wayfarers into the power of demons and 
witches, 91 but ordinarily no such intermediary is necessary to bring 
the unfortunate mortal within the sphere of diabolical influence. 
The power of the " evil eye," so long an article of folk belief, is 
still known in the Alleghany Mountains, 92 but its exercise is said 
to be uncommon in the annals of English witchcraft. 93 Generally 
speaking, the practice of the black art is founded upon two well 
accepted principles of primitive society. The first, known as 
Sympathetic Magic, asserts that " any effect may be produced by 
imitating it " — a dictum based ultimately on the assumption that 
association in thought involves connection in reality. 94 According 
to the second, nails, hair, clothing and other articles of dress, and 
even the name are parts of the personality, 95 and, since to the 
primitive mind things once joined remain joined ever afterwards, 96 
any intimate personal possession, in case it fall into the hands of 
an enemy, may be used by him to the detriment of the owner. 97 

«J. A. F.-L., vii (1894), 110. 

"J. A. F.-L., vii (1894), 114; XIV, 42. 

"Notestein, op. cit., 111. 

"Hartland, Legend of Perseus, London, n (1895), 64 ff.; Lang, Myth, 
Ritual, and Religion, I (1899), 96; F. T. Elworthy, The Evil Eye, London, 
1895, 48. Cf. Kittredge, The Old Farmer, 115 f. Similarities of a purely- 
accidental character are apparently responsible for a number of proverbs 
current among the Cumberland mountaineers. Hasty tempers and pepper 
are alike in that both are hot. Hence, " if you ain't bad-tempered you 
can't git pepper to bear." " If you're hairy about the arms and chest, 
you'll have good luck with hogs." According to Pliny, basil should be 
sowed with curses and ugly words (cf. Cockayne, Leechdoms, i, p. xv) ; 
the (Southern highlander says, " If you don't cuss you'll never raise 
gourds " (E. B. Miles, The Spirit of the Mountains, p. 99). The principle 
underlying such sayings is exemplified in old-fashioned medicine under the 
name of the " Doctrine of Signatures." See T. J. Pettigrew, On Super- 
stitions Connected with the History and Practise of Medicine and Surgery, 
Philadelphia, 1844, p. 33 f. Cf. Vergleichende Volksmedizin, ed., Hovorka 
and Kronfeld, n (1909), 858 f. 

""For references, see Modern Philology, xn (1915), 622 f. Is it believed 
anywhere in North Carolina that the floating loaf of bread used to dis- 
cover the whereabouts of a drowned body, should have the dead person's 
name written on it? 

"Cf. Frazer, Golden Bough, I, 49 ff. 

97 On the other hand, if properly treated, it may cause great good to the 



254 Witchcraft in North Carolina 

Faith in these two doctrines is responsible not only for the vast 
majority of witch practice, ancient and modern, but also for the 
efficacy of many counter-charms employed by " witch-doctors " and 
others who fight against magic with magic. 98 

These facts erplain the universal fear of giving anything to a 
witch." Whatever is done to the gift affects the giver. It is, how- 
ever, scarcely less perilous to incur a witch's displeasure by refusing 
her request, for she has many strings to her diabolical fiddle, and 
she may find other ways of harming you. 

The use of personal property for the purpose of injuring the 
owner should be well known in North Carolina. A few typical 
cases from neighboring territory are here given as illustrations of 
the general method of procedure. The following episode, said to 
have occurred in December, 1907, is given essentially as it appeared 
in the Eichmond Times-Dispatch, because it illustrates so well, 
even in a reporter's "write-up," the psychology underlying the 
practice of witchcraft by sympathetic magic. 

" A night or two ago ... a negro girl ran breathlessly up to an officer, 
and said she had been ' conjured.' ' Some gal's got the combin's of my 
hyar, an' nailed 'em to a tree,' she wept. ' I dunno how she got 'em, but 
she got 'em, and she's done nail 'em to a tree. . . . Yo' white folks don' 
know 'bout sech things, . . . but we cullud folks knows all erbout 'em. 
Dat gal sho' is got my combin's, cos' I'se got de headache. When yo' nails 
a gal's combin's to a tree, wid the combin's twisted roun' de nail, it sho' 



original possessor. This doctrine explains the supposed efficacy of Sir 
Kenelm Digby's famous Sympathetic Powder, the use of which was ex- 
pounded by the inventor in 1657. Sir Kenelm proved to his own satis- 
faction, as well as to that of many other persons, that a wound may be 
cured by treating with the powder the weapon which caused it or some 
object which had been in contact with the patient. For the modern expla- 
nation of the surprisingly large number of recoveries after the application 
of this method, see W. R. Riddell, N. T. Med. Journ., Feby. 19, 1916. Cf. 
Kittredge, The Old Farmer, 115 ff. ; Karl Knortz, Zur amerikanischen 
Volkskunde, p. 24 ; Pettigrew, Superstitions, etc., p. 201 ff. 

98 On North Carolina witch-doctors of the early nineteenth century, see 
Brantley York, Autobiog., 8. On the doctrine of sympathy in folk medi- 
cine, see Black, op. tit., 51 ff. ; Dr. W. J. Hoffman, Proc. Am. Phil. Soc., 
xxvi (1889), 330. 

"J. A. F.-L., rx (1896), 227. See also Century Magazine, xxi (1885-6), 
820; J. A. F.-L., I (1888), 134 (Pa.); m, 206 (La.), 286 f.; rv, 254 
(N. H.) ; xrv, 43 (Western Md.) ; Scot, op. tit., 5; Sadduc. Triumph., 328; 
Ashton, The Devil in Britain and America, p. 64 ff. 



Tom Peete Cross 255 

gwine give yo' a headache, an' I'se got one arful bad. It's been achin' 
eber since dat gal got my combin's.' " ; 



I 100 



A woman in Chestertown, Maryland, was terrified because some- 
one had torn a piece out of her dress and "buried it against 
her." 101 In Georgia negroes " conjer " by getting the excrement 
of the person to be affected, boring a hole in a tree, putting the 
excrement into the hole, and driving in a plug. As a result the 
victim cannot defecate unless the peg is taken out and the tree cut 
down and burned on the spot. 102 

The same principle explains the terror with which the negroes 
and poor whites in some sections of the South regard the action 
of ' picking up tracks/ Because of their accessibility and their 
close association with the person, especially in country districts 
where there is much travelling on foot and many people go bare- 
footed, foot-prints are especially liable to be used by witches in 
working their will upon the maker. 103 Some twenty years ago the 

100 'Cf. J. A. F.-L., xxn (1909), 253. If a bird gets your combings and 
makes a nest of them, you will have the headache. Of. So. Workman, XL, 
581 f.; III. Med. Journ., Apr., 1917, 269 f. To make a cat remain in a new 
habitation, cut off and keep the last joint of her tail {J. A. F.-L., xxvn 
(1914), 247) (IS. C). The following comes from eastern North Carolina: 
to prevent a ferocious dog from biting you, get a hair from the tail of the 
animal and bury it under your door-step. Never throw away your nail- 
clippings. Cf. Nassau, Fetichism in West Africa, p. 104. 

1<n J. A. F.-L., m (1890), 285 f. In one of the Lincoln (England) trials 
in 1618-19 it transpired that the witch had accomplished her diabolical 
purpose by dipping the victim's gloves in hot water, and then rubbing them 
on a cat and pricking them often (Thomas Wright, Narratives, II, 124; 
cf. Notestein, op. cit., 134). 

1(B J. A. F.-L., xrv (1901), 179. 

103 For a highly illuminating discussion, see E. S. Hartland, The Legend 
of Perseus, n, 78 ff. It may be added that under certain circumstances 
tracks have a peculiar quality of permanence. The tracks of a horse 
which threw its rider while the latter was racing on Sunday, are said to 
be still visible on a road near Bath, N. O. In spite of many efforts to 
destroy them, they remain a permanent warning against the breach of the 
Second Commandment. Bev. 6. Calvin Campbell (colored) writes that at 
a spot in Long Acre township, Beaufort County, North Carolina, there may 
still be seen the hoof-prints of a horse which threw its rider — an unre- 
generate man — during a race many years ago. According to current opin- 
ion, the ghost of the dead man comes every night and clears the tracks of 
whatever falls into them during the day. Although Bath is situated in 
Bath, not in Long Acre, township, both accounts doubtless refer to the 
same place. 



256 Witchcraft in North Carolina 

practice was known in Georgia, and a writer in the Journal of 
American Folk-Lore for 1896 (p. 227 f.) tells how a country dis- 
trict in Mississippi was set by the ears because a negro woman had 
picked up the tracks of a man and his wife, carried them off, and 
buried them, interring dog's hair with the tracks of the man, cat's 
hair with those of the woman. " Hence the couple could no more 
live together than a dog and a cat." The writer is indebted to Mr. 
Wm. G. Caffey, formerly of Lowndes County, Alabama, for an 
account of how a negro on an Alabama plantation, who had picked 
up the tracks of another, was chased by a mob and was saved from 
rough handling only by the timely interference of the owner of 
the estate. 104 Mr. Stephenson writes that in Northampton County, 
North Carolina, conjure-bags sometimes contain, along with locks 
of hair and rocks, dirt from the tracks of the person to be injured. 
It is said that in Knott County, Kentucky, a lover may win his 
lady's favor by counting her steps up to the ninth, then taking 
some earth from the track made by her left shoe-heel, and carrying 
it in his pocket for nine days. 105 Here belongs also the superstition 
that a thief may be caught by driving a nail into one of his tracks. 
The effect is the same as if the nail were stuck into his foot. A 
string must therefore be tied around the head of the nail so that 
it may be drawn out when the offender is captured; otherwise he 
will die. 106 

In the absence of any article of personal property, the witch may 
establish direct connection with her victim by the use of a conven- 
tionalized image made of wood, dough, wax, or other available 
substance and representing the person to be affected — a device 

,M «7. A. F.-L., xxii (1909), 253. Cf. vol. IX (1896), 227. 

'*J. A. F.-L., xxiv (1911), 321. The following extract from the collec- 
tanea of the North Carolina Folk-Lore Society is recommended to ladies 
who would know something of their future hushands: 'Starting on your 
right foot, take nine steps backwards. Take a handful of dirt from under 
the heel of your foot on the ninth step. In this dirt you will find a hair 
of the same color as that of the man you will marry.' 

106 J. A. F.-L., vn (1894), 113. Similarly, if a sharp implement such 
as a knife, a fork, or a pin is stuck in the under side of the seat of a 
wooden-bottom chair or in the floor beneath it, any witch who sits on the 
chair will be impaled (cf. J. A. F.L., xi (1898), 76). The efficacy of this 
test was illustrated in the evidence against Florence Newton, accused of 
witchcraft at the Cork (Ireland) assizes in 1661 (Sadduc. Triumph., 
p. 320). 



Tom Peete Cross 257 

familiar to all readers of Thomas Hardy's Return of the Native 
and Bossetti's ballad of " Sister Helen." The savage draws near 
to the god of his idolatry by driving a nail in his fetich. 107 The 
witch tortures her enemy by heating a little figure of wax or clay. 
This device was used by the witches of antiquity ; 108 it was 
familiar to the early Germanic tribes ; 109 it is often mentioned in 
the witchcraft trials of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; 110 
and it is common among the African natives of the present day. 111 
Among the evidences of witchcraft enumerated in Dalton's Coun- 
trey Justice is the following : " They [witches] have often pictures 
of clay or wax (like a man, &c. made of such as they would 
bewitch) found in their house, or which they roast, or bury in the 
earth, that as the picture consumes, so may the parties bewitched 
consume" (p. 277). According to a belief current as recently as 
1896 in the remoter districts of Georgia, a witch may torture her 
enemy by baking an image of dough fashioned to represent the 
victim, and then sticking pins in it; 112 and a few years ago 
witches in southeastern Virginia were said to be guilty of much the 
same offence. j » . 

The principle of imitative action as applied to the practice of 
black magic is illustrated in an account of a witch-doctor who 
flourished in Johnston County, North Carolina, some three or four 
decades ago. Of this celebrity Professor William E. Dodd, of the 
University of Chicago, writes as follows: 

"When I was a boy my father lived a little east of Clayton, North 
Carolina. There was a certain Doctor Duncan who lived somewhat more 
than two miles further east. He was known as a 'conjure doctor.' He 
was supposed to work marvellous cures upon people who had strange ail- 



107 Cf. E. S. Hartland, Folklore; What is It and What is the Good of It 
(Pop. Studies in Romance and Folk -Lore, 2), London, 1899, p. 17 f. ; G. L. 
Gomme, Handbook of Folklore, London, 1890, p. 40 f. ; Andree, op. cit., 
p. 8 ff. ; Nassau, Fetichism in West Africa, p. 87 ff. 

108 Cf. F. T. Elworthy, op. cit., 49, n.; Tacitus, Annales, n, 69. 

109 Cf. J. A. F.-L., xxii (1909), 119 f. 

110 Cf. Notestein, op. cit., pp. 109, n. 25, 215, 342, 378 ; St. John D. Sey- 
mour, Irish Witchcraft and Demonology, 1913, pp 147, 182; Sadduc. 
Triumph., pp. 296, 391 f. 

111 Lang, Myth, Ritual, and Religion, i, 99. Cf. Jerome Dowd, The Negro 
Races, New York, 1907, p. 261 ; Mary H. Kingsley, West African Studies, L, 
1899, p. 163. 

112 J. A. F.-L., rx (1896), 227. Cf. Century Mag., xxi (1885-6), 820. 



258 Witchcraft in North Carolina 

ments. If men had been bewitched, he could remove the charm. If women 
wished their enemies to suffer, he could perform certain curious tricks and 
the victims would invariably begin their downward course. Negroes were 
especially subject to his cures and bewitchments. It was told me more 
than once that live frogs had been taken from negroes' swollen feet or legs 
by this wonder-worker. A certain negro woman was once caused to begin 
to stoop by this doctor. She continued to stoop till she finally got her 
feet and her head together, and died in that attitude. The doctor had only 
said a few words, heated a needle over a candle and put the point through 
its eye in the presence of the woman's enemy. Many and even more fanci- 
ful stories were told me Of the marvellous man ' over the creek.' It would 
have been a joke to our household had it not been for the number of people 
from far and near, from distant states, who halted at our door, by day and 
by night, to ask the way to Dr. Duncan's." 

The principle of sympathetic magic may also be applied in retali- 
ation, since here, as in popular medicine, the rule similia simili- 
bus curantur holds good. 113 In Georgia a bewitched person may 
guard himself against further attacks for a year by making a dough 
effigy of the witch, tying a string around its neck, allowing the 
dough to rise, and then baking it. The witch is thus strangled. 114 
From Mitchell County, North Carolina, comes the information that 
a vindictive person may wound his enemy by drawing his picture 
on a board and then shooting it. 115 Equally in accord with the 
most approved methods is the Pennsylvania prescription which sub- 
stitutes for the drawing a hair from the witch's head wrapped in a 
piece of paper. 116 

113 Compare the " Doctrine of Signatures," on which see above, p. 253, 
n. 94. Among the remnants of the Machapunga Indians in Dare and Hyde 
counties and on Roanoke Island, the bite of a rattlesnake may be cured by 
eating a piece of the snake. Am. Anthrop., xvm (1916), 273. 

«•*/. A. F.-L., rx (1896), 227. Of. vol. XXV (1912), 134. 

"* F. D. Bergen, Animal and Plant Lore, p. 15. Mrs. Bergen states that 
the same method is used in Alabama. See further J. A. F.-L., xrv (1901), 
42. The fear of being photographed, encountered among savages and occa- 
sionally among civilized peoples, is based ultimately on the notion that the 
picture renders the person represented more liable to injury. Cf. Andree, 
op. tit., p. 18 ff.; R. E. Dennett, At the Back of the Black Man's Mind, 
London, 1906, p. 61. 

*»J. A. F.-L., ii (1889), 32. That such sympathetic remedies as those 
mentioned above are thoroughly in accord with the laws of nature and 
permissible under those of God, was maintained by Rev. Deodat Lawson in 
Christ's Fidelity the Only Shield against Satan's Malignity, a sermon 
delivered at Salem, Mass., in March, 1692. The second edition, consulted 
by the writer, appeared in 1704. 



Tom Peete Cross 259 

In the same category belong most cures for bewitched cattle. 
Among the mountain whites of the South, whatever is done to the 
animal affects the witch. 117 In general the contagion of witchcraft 
is checked if the first thing attacked is burned. Mr. James Mooney, 
in his article on " Folk-Lore in the Carolina Mountains/' records 
the following instance, related by a lady as having occurred near 
Asheville within her own or her mother's recollection. " A valu- 
able steer suddenly became sick without apparent cause, and the 
fact was attributed to witchcraft. The owner and his neighbors 
collected a pile of logs, laid the sick animal upon it while still 
alive, and burned it to ashes." 118 Mr. Joseph A. Haskell tells of 
another case which came under his observation while he was 
engaged in cotton-planting in North Carolina. One hot day he 
noticed the children of his negro overseer engaged in building a 
fire of leaves and sticks under the supervision of their father. 
The old darkey, on being asked the reason for the strange pro- 
ceeding, replied, " The distemper has got my chickens and they 
are dying fast. Now when that happens, if you take a well one 
and burn it alive in the fork of the path it will cure the rest and 
no more will die." On another occasion the old negro even 
attempted to induce Mr. Haskell to burn a well mule "at the 
forks of the road " in order to stop the ravages of an epidemic 
among the stock on the plantation. 119 The following story from 
the mountains of Tennessee furnishes conclusive proof of the value 
of the method illustrated above. A man borrowed a boiler from 
a witch and refused to return it. In retaliation the hag " came 
every night and danced on him and also made one of his sheep die 
every day. He returned the boiler, bub his ill luck continued." 
By the advice of a witch-doctor he took out the heart and lungs of 
the next sheep that died, performing the operation alone and in 
silence. He then carried the parts home and laid them on a bed 
of live coals. " The witch (who lived some distance away), immedi- 
ately began to shriek, and some neighbors coming in and forcibly 
investigating, found her breast completely charred." 120 At the 
trial of Julian Cox, of Somersetshire, England, in 1663, a witness 

117 «/. A. F.-L., vn (1894), 116. 

"*</. A. F.-L., ii (1889), 102. Cf. vol. xiv (1901), 43 (Western Md.). 
m J. A. F.-L., iv (1891), 267 f. 

120 J. A. F.-L., vii (1894), 116 f. For other cases, see vol. i (1888), 
134 f; iv, 324 (Pa.). 



260 Witchcraft in North Carolina 

testified that he had cut off ariH burned the ears of certain bewitched 
cattle, whereupon the defendant had come to his house " raging 
and scolding " and ceased only when the ears were taken out of 
the fire. 121 Today the Alleghany mountaineers cure bewitched 
cattle by cutting off and burning the tips of their ears and tails, 
bewitched horses by pressing on their foreheads a red-hot iron 
ring. 122 Butter and soft soap that will not ' come ' are sometimes 
burned. 123 The spell of ' picking up tracks ' can be counteracted 
only by fire. 124 

Persons suffering from " cunjer " are sometimes cured by the 
application of an outworn doctrine of primitive medicine which 
partakes of the nature of sympathetic magic. The underlying idea 
is that disease is attributable to the presence of evil spirits in the 
patient, and that, by transferring the demon to some other animal 
or to an inanimate object, the sufferer may be healed. 125 In many 
communities sick persons are passed through a split tree or some 
other aperture that they may be cured. According to an article 
in the Southern Workman and Hampton School Quarterly for 
1896 (ix, 225), an American conjure-doctor once cured a bewitched 
person by sawing a tree in the middle and putting the patient 
through it. 126 Of the practice in Lincoln County a century ago, 

3,21 Sadduc. Triumph., p. 327. The efficacy of the method is discussed in 
An Advertisement to the Jury-Men of England, edn. cit., p. 307. 

13 J. A. F.-L., vn (1894), 115. 

M J. 1. F.-L., xrv (1901), 43 (Western Md.). For other methods of 
injuring the witch by means of the conjured object, see J. A. F.-L., n, 293 
(N. H.) ; rv, 126 (Pa.) ; vi, 70 (Vt.). 

m J. A. F.L., IX (1896), 228. 

106 Cf . W. G. Black, Folk-Medicine, p. 4 ff., and a recent article on 
" Demonology and Bacteriology in Medicine " in the Scientific Monthly. 
Lawson writes that in his day Indian doctors, or conjurers, told their 
people that " all Distempers are the effects of Evil Spirits, or the Bad 
Spirit which has struck them with this or that Malady." The author 
gives a detailed description of the Indian method of healing by driving 
out the "bad spirit." (Op. cit., p. 126 f.). See further V ' ergleichende 
Volksmedizin, n (1909), 858 ff. For a collection of modern cases of 
nervous disorders attributed to demon possession, see Rev. J. L. Nevius, 
Demon Possession and Allied Themes, Revell, [1896?], p. Ill ff. 

a* See further Brand, Pop. Antics., in (1901), 288 ff.; Black, op. cit., 
p. 34 ff.; Cockayne, Leechdoms, i, liv. If a child is "liver-grown," take 
it "by the left leg and pass it three times around the leg of a table." 
(III. Med. Journ., April, 1917, p. 270). 



Tom Peete Cross 261 

Mr. Coon writes : " The usual means resorted to to restore those 
who suffered from the spells worked by the hair balls thrown by 
witches was the following : 

" The witch doctor would set a ladder up against a house, pass 
the patient from bottom to top and from top to bottom through 
the rungs, something like platting the ' splits ' in the seat of a chair. 
After this performance, the patient was passed through a large 
horse collar, and a kind of magic oil or grease was used to make 
round rings on the patient's back. Dipping the thumbs of the 
patient in this oil ended the performance." 

Here belong many cures for warts. For example, in western 
North Carolina a wart may be removed by cutting it until it bleeds, 
putting a drop of the blood on a grain of corn, and feeding the 
corn to a duck. 127 Another cure for warts, communicated to Mr. 

337 J. A. F.-L., xx (1907), 249. Compare the cure for chills used by 
negroes in Maryland and Virginia (J. A. F.-L., xxvi (1913), 190). See 
further the article on warts in the Boston Herald for December 16, 1907, 
and the methods recommended in J. A. F.-L., vn (1894), 113; Black, Folk- 
Medicine, 185. This type of remedy was much used during the Middle 
Ages (cf. Cockayne, Leechdoms, I, XXX). In many communities, espe- 
cially in Catholic countries, sick persons tie rags or parts of the clothing 
to the bushes surrounding wishing- or healing-wells, hoping by this opera- 
tion to be freed of their ailments (cf. W. G. Wood-Martin, Traces of the 
Elder Faiths of Ireland, Longmans, n (1902), 80 ff.). The belief that the 
evil spirit which causes the pain may be exorcised, explains the practice 
of "talking the fire" out of a burn. Mr. D. P. Smith writes that in 
eastern North Carolina certain especially gifted persons are still known as 
* fire-talkers " and that as a boy he was cured of a painful burn by an, 
old lady who knew the magic formula. Mr. Coon asserts that, according 
to a belief formerly current in Lincoln County, the art of " talking out " 
fire could be taught to a woman only by a man, and vice versa. " The fire 
conjurer would hold one of his hands over the burn, repeat some words of 
enchantment, then remove the hand and blow the burn three times. If, for 
instance, the burn was on the hand, the blowing would be directed toward 
the ends of the fingers of the patient. If the burn was on the body, the 
blowing would be directed toward the nearest extremity. This perform- 
ance was gone through with three times, each time the blowing was 
directed toward the nearest extremity and the hand of the conjurer moved 
■over the wound in the direction of the extremity nearest the \fZZTiid. The 
words were said in German, or ' Pennsylvania Dutch.' It was equivalent 
to losing the art for a conjurer of fire to reveal the enchanting words. 
These words were always said in a sing-song inaudible monotone that 
frould not be understood by the bystanders." The formula used by a Devon- 



262 Witchcraft in North Carolina 

Thomas Smith by John Dougherty, an uneducated farmer and 
blacksmith who has lived most of his life in the neighborhood of 
Zionville, runs as follows: "Take a little white flint rock for 
every wart you have, tie the flints up in a rag, then go to the 
nearest forks of the road; throw the rag with the flints over your 
shoulder into the road and walk off without looking back." Georgia 
negroes escape 'cunjer' "by burying the cunjer bag in the public 
road where people walk * ; thus the spell will lose its force by being 
divided. 128 Among Afro-Americans in general a bewitched person 
may injure the witch by burning the ' trick/ throwing it into the 
water, or returning it to the conjurer. 129 

Just as parts of the body may be used to produce conjure, so the 
spell may be removed by taking the parings of the toe and finger 
nails of the person bewitched and burying them at midnight at the 
foot of a white-oak tree. 130 In the same category belongs tlje fol- 
lowing elaborate cure for bewitched children, said to have been in 
use a quarter of a century ago among the Alleghany mountains: 
" Measuring an infant, whose growth has been arrested, with an 
elastic cord that requires to be stretched in order to equal the 
child's length, will set it right again. If the spell be a wasting 
one, take three strings of similar or unlike colors, tie them to the 
front door or gate in such a manner that whenever either [is] 
opened there is some wear and tear on the cords. As use begins to 
tell on them, vigor will recommence." 181 

shire woman in healing a burn is quoted by Black (op. cit., p. 81, note). 
In Devonshire, as in North Carolina, the formula for curing a burn or 
scald should be communicated by a man to a woman, and vice versa 
(George Soane, New Curiosities of Literature, 2d. edn., London, I [1849], 
205). 

138 J. A. F.-L., xrv (1901), 177. 

339 J. A. F.-L., ix (1896), 226. 

*** F. D. Bergen, Animal and Plant Lore, pp. 16, 102. In a seventeenth- 
century account given in Glanvill's Sadduc. Triumph., (edn. cit., p. 334), 
a bewitched woman was relieved and the witch injured when some of the 
sufferer's urine, corked in a bottle with nails, pins, and needles, was buried 
in the ground. 

1,1 J. A. F.L., vn (1894), 116. Compare the "straining strings" used 
in connection with cures in Celtic communities (Wood-Martin, op. cit., n, 
7 Iff.). The colors of the strings are sometimes important; see F. T. 
Elworthy, op. cit., 58 f.; Black, Folk-Medicine, 108 ff. In Illinois the ser- 
vices of a "string-doctor" are still frequently in demand. In cases of 



Tom Peete Cross 263 

The American witch makes large use of small bundles or bags 
buried or otherwise hidden in or near the path of the intended 
victim (often under the doorstep of his house) and depending for 
their efficiency partly on sympathetic magic/ 32 partly on vague 
reminiscences of primitive medical practice transmitted through 
generations of conjurers and quack doctors. It is here that African 
tradition appears to have been most influential on the technique 
of modern witchcraft in the South, 133 but no one can read many 

erysipelas the " string-doctor " " passes a cord over the eruption, says a 
few magic words and the cord must be burned" (III. Med. Journ., Apr., 
1917, 269). 

132 The gradual rotting or rusting of the substances in the conjure-bag 
is accompanied by the wasting away of the victim (J. A. F.-L., rn [1890], 
286) . Cf. vol. XX, 160; X, 241. 

133 See the account of African negro charms given by Miss Kingsley, 
Travels in West Africa, London, 1897, p. 446 f. 

The efficacy of "conjure" when properly placed and the methods used 
to counteract its effects are illustrated in a story told to Professor Ben- 
jamin Sledd, of Wake Forest College, by Sam Goff, a negro tenant on 
Professor Sledd's estate in Bedford County, Virginia. Sue, the wife of 
Ed Mayo, one of Sam's friends, suffered for two years from a mysterious 
ailment that prevented her from walking. At length, convinced that she 
had been bewitched by one Polly Ovaker, she dispatched her husband and 
Sam to Greenlea Ferry to ask the services of Jerry Ricketts, an albino, who 
had the reputation of being a powerful witch-doctor. Jerry, having 
assured himself that Sam and Ed believed in Witchcraft (without faith 
no cure could be effected), gave them a paper containing directions to be 
delivered to Sue, who fortunately could read. On returning to Ed's cabin, 
the two found Sue already partly recovered. On searching the premises 
in accordance with Jerry's instructions, they found a big-mouth black 
bottle containing a liquid hidden under the steps, and " a black gum-o'- 
'lastic ball 'bout big as a taw" buried in the sand at the bottom of the 
spring. Sue poured the liquid into a hole under " the big rock at the end 
o' the crossin'-log down at the creek " ; the ball she placed in the fire. In 
each case her action was followed by an explosion. The witch soon 
appeared and attempted unsuccessfully to borrow provisions, and about 
sunset she tried to steal a lap-ful of chips. That night a big black cat 
entered Ed's cabin, but was driven off by the dogs, which later returned 
" lookin' used up an' slashed all about the nose an' years." Seeing nothing 
of the witch next day, Sam and others, overcome by curiosity, crept over 
to Polly's house the following night and peeped in. " All at once a light 
as blindin' as forked lightnin' flared up, right in the middle o' the cabin." 
Next morning all that remained of the place was a pile of ashes. Professor 
Sledd offers to have Sam repeat the story for any readers who happen to 
be skeptical. 



264 Witchcraft in North Carolina 

accounts of the contents of negro " cunjer-bags " without being 
reminded of the ingredients of the witches' caldron in Macbeth 
or of the diabolical paraphernalia which Tarn O'Shanter saw one 
stormy night through the windows of Kirk-Alloway. Witch charms 
of today apparently contain a large number of survivals of the 
materia medica of the Middle Ages. Substances which, when prop- 
erly applied, are beneficent in their effects, may, when used by 
unblest hands, produce naught but evil. Strange drugs, many of 
animal origin, play an important part in primitive medicine. 134 

184 Stones as amulets or cures are also widely used in folk -medicine. The 
society is indebted to Mr. D. P. Smith for the description of a " madstone." 
After recommending the madstone as a remedy for hydrophobia, the writer 
adds, " I will explain something about it, as I have seen one, and also seen 
one applied. There are only two or three in the world and they are in 
eastern North Carolina. It is a small stone about the size and shape of a 
piece of loaf sugar. It was originally used by the Indians and [from 
them] came to us. When placed near the wound, it sticks tightly . . . 
and often remains for several hours, at the end of which time the stone, 
that at first was a milky color, is a nasty greenish. ... By soaking it 
in milk the stone recovers its natural color." In the atumn of 1917 the 
writer examined a madstone owned by Mr. J. B. Grimes, of Smithfield, Isle 
of Wight County, Virginia. The " stone " proved to be a small cube about 
1/2" x 1/4" x 3/16", brownish on the larger surfaces, dark brown along 
the edges and on the ends. It looked like calcined bone or some porous 
wood, but Mr. Grimes was sure it was made of herbs. It was reported 
to have been made by one Seth Parker, of Cabin Point, Virginia. Accom- 
panying the "stone " were the following printed instructions : " Directions 
for using The Chinese Snake Stone. Scarify the wound before applying 
the Stone — take it off every morning and evening — put the Stone at each 
time, when taken off, into a glass of milk -warm water, and let it remain 
a few minutes, until it discharges itself of the poison — wash the wound in 
a strong solution of salt water, and scarify again, if necessary. After 
taking the Stone from the water, rub it dry in moderately warm ashes, 
and apply as before. This course should be repeated for the space of nine 
days, when a cure will be effected. The Stone must be applied to every 
wound. The patient must abstain from spirituous liquors. In case of 
fever, an occasional dose of salts will be found serviceable." Dr. Thomas 
M. Owen, Director of the Department of Archives and History of the State 
of Alabama, in a letter dated September 22, 1917, writes as follows: 
" After very extensive inquiry, I have located only one person who is said 
to make use of a madstone. His name and address is Dr. George M. 
Spencer, R. F. D., Greensboro, Ala." Accompanying the letter was a manu- 
script note on madstones from Dr. Owen's forthcoming History of Alabama. 
According to Dr. Owen, " some of these stones are reputed to have been 



Tom Peete Cross 265 

Dried reptiles, dried organs, excreta/ 35 spiders/ 36 ants, lizards, 
lobster claws, cat hair, and blood of deer, dove, rabbit, hog, or calf 

taken from the stomach, of a deer, but they were in fact nothing more than 
native rock, worn smooth, and which, because of their porosity, were capable 
when heated of drawing out, or absorbing liquids." The instructions given 
by Dr. Owen for using the madstone are much like those accompanying Mr. 
Grimes's specimen. (The bezoar, similar to the madstone in usage and 
frequently in composition, is a calcareous concretion found in the bodies of 
certain animals.) One of the writer's colleagues, who hails from Halifax 
County, Virginia, remembers having had a madstone applied to his own 
person when he was a boy. The stone resembled a fragment of ordinary 
whetstone. For further accounts of madstones or bezoars in Virginia, 
see Karl Knortz, Zur amerikanischen Volkskunde, p. 32 f . ( Essex and Lou- 
doun counties); Denham Tracts, n (1895), 233 f., (Richmond); James 
Thacker, Observations on Hydrophobia, Plymouth, Mass., 1812, p. 204 f. 
( Tappahannock ) ; W. S. Walsh, Handy Book of Curious Information, 
Lippincott, 1913, p. 316 f. (Halifax Co.). For an account of madstones in 
the vicinity of Pulaski, Tennessee, consult The Denham Tracts, loc. cit.,; 
for a bezoar taken from the stomach of a deer" in the Chilhowee Moun- 
tains, see G. F. Kunz, The Magic of Jewels and Charms, Lippincott, 1915, 
p. 218. According to an early eighteenth-century report, bezoars were 
obtained from the bodies of deer in the Carolina mountains (Lawson, op. 
cit., p. 72). For a wonderfully effective Kentucky madstone, see Black, 
Folk-Medicine, p. 144. iSnakestones, used to cure snake-bite and popularly 
supposed to be formed by serpents, are often similar in composition to 
madstones and bezoars. On these and similar objects used from remote 
antiquity to heal the bites of serpents and dogs, see G. F. Kunz, The 
Curious Lore of Precious Stones, Lippincott, 1913, p. 367 ff.; E. N. Santini 
de Riolo, Les pierres magiques, Paris, 1905, p. 34 f.; Walter Johnson, Folk 
Memory, Oxford, 1908, p. 121 ff.; Proc. Am. Phil. Soc, xxvt (1889), 337, 
note; Geo. H. Bratley, The Power of Gems and Charms, London, 1907, p. 
103 f.; Orphei lithica, ed., E. Abel, Berolini, 1881, p. 157 f.; W. G. Wood- 
Martin, Traces of the Elder Faiths of Ireland, Longmans, II ( 1902 ) , 67 ff. ; 
N. & Q., 9th Ser., vi, 477; vii, 12, 135, 335; Brand, Pop. Antiqs., m (1901), 
295; Eugene Tavenner, Studies in Magic from Latin Lit., New York, 1916, 
p. 9, n. 40. For several of the references given above the writer is indebted 
to Professor Kittredge. 

""Scot, op. cit., p. 63. 

m On the bad reputation of the spider, see Kittredge, The Old Farmer, 
p. 104 ff. Dr. Brickell describes the symptoms of poisoning by spiders and 
prescribes an early eighteenth-century cure. His book recommends a num- 
ber of medicaments composed of insects (Natural History of North Caro- 
lina, edn. cit., 159 ff.). On fleas and lice in folk-lore, see Karl Knortz, 
Die Insekten in Sage, Sitte u. Literatur, Annaberg (Sachsen), 1910, p. 
47 ff. 



266 Witchcraft in North Carolina 

were all anciently used for medical purposes. 137 In the United 
States reptiles, 138 animal matter of various kinds (including hair, 139 
viscera, and urine 140 ), red pepper, 141 assafcetida, 142 the powder 
contained in a large mushroom called the "devil's snuff-box, 143 
a plant known as the " king-root," 144 pokeberry root, 145 and other 

"""See B. H. True, "Folk Materia Medica " (J. A. F.-L., xiv [1901], 
105 ff. ) ; Black, op. cit.. p. 148 ff . ; J. M. Beveridge, " Survivals of Super- 
stition as Found in the Practice of Medicine " (III. Med. Journ., April, 
1917, p 267 ff.) ; T. A. Wise, Commentary on the Hindu System of Medi- 
cine, Calcutta, 1845, p. 114 ff. In 1889 it was reported among the colored 
population of South Carolina that doctors made castor oil out of negroes' 
blood (J. A. F.-L., in (1890), 285). The Boston Post for March 24th, 
1908, announces the death of Mary Jane Fleming, the " veiled lady " of 80 
Harvard Street, Cambridge, who made her living " by selling hand-made 
flatiron holders and ' conjure charms ' such as dried birds' heads, ' black 
cat gizzards,' so called, and rabbits' feet." There was a rumor that the 
woman was a negress. In Georgia and South Carolina the hair-ball found 
in the stomach of a cow produces conjure and counteracts witchcraft 
(J. A. F.-L., hi (1890), 286). In the early eighteenth century the Indian 
conjurers of eastern North Carolina were skilled in the use of herbs; tbey 
were credited with marvellous cures and were charged with wholesale 
poisoning (Lawson, op. cit., pp. 129 f., 134). 

338 Dr. Brickell gives prescriptions for various remedies of reptilian ori- 
gin (op. cit., pp. 77, 141, 147). According to Mr. D. P. Smith, it is still 
a popular belief in eastern North Carolina that a live toad-frog cut in 
two and applied to the bite of a mad dog, will draw out the venom. Dur- 
ing the early eighteenth century Indian children who persisted in eating 
dirt were forced to partake of a bat skinned and roasted (Lawson, op. cit., 
p. 73). 

139 Cf. F. D. Bergen, Animal and Plant Lore, p. 71 f., Karl Knortz, Rep- 
tilien u. Amphibien, p. 63. 

140 J. A. F.-L., xvi (1903), 68; xvii, 36, 107. Cf. vol. xiv, 177. 

***«/■. A. F.-L., xiv (1901), 175 (Ga. -negro). In the sixteenth century 
sage was used in witch charms (Scot, op. cit., p. 47). 

14a To prevent horses from being bewitched, rub with lard or assafoetida 
(J. A. F.-L., vu [1894] 114: Alleghany Mountains). Among the negroes of 
South Carolina assafcetida worn around the neck is an antidote for witch 
spells (J. A. F.-L., ix, 129 f.). Cf. vol. xvii, 126; xxvii, 246 i(S. C.) ; 
xiv, 39 (Md.). On the use of brimstone to prevent conjure, see So. 
Workman, xli (1912), 248. 

,- J. A. F.-L., xrv (1901), 177 f. (Ga.-negro). See also So. Workman, 
xxix (1900), 180. 

"* J. A. F.L., xii (1899), 229. Cf. vol. ix, 145. 

148 J. A. F.L., xiv (1901), 177 (Ga.-negro). 



Tom Peete Cross 267 

herbs 14G enter into the practice of witchcraft or of popular medi- 
cine. Among the mountain whites of the Alleghanies " maiden- 
hair " mixed with the fodder will make bewitched cattle give 
milk. 147 The use of saliva is notorious. 148 In the mountains of 
North Carolina, making a cross and spitting in it is a familiar 
charm against the baneful influences of black cats and graveyard 
rabbits. 149 Mr. D. P. Smith, who has been good enough to record 
some traditions for the society, asserts that conjure-bags are still 
used by witches in eastern North Carolina, and relates that on a 
visit to a witch's cabin, he found the walls decorated with " such 
things as drying roots and plants, snake skins, dried frogs, [and] 
cow's horns." In Georgia conjure-doctors use the heads of snakes 
and " scorpions " in whiskey, 150 as well as any or all of the follow- 
ing assortment : earthworms, snake-skins, leaves or sticks tied with 
horse-hair, black owl's feathers, wings of bats, tails of rats, and 
feet of moles. 151 A Georgia negro found under his door-step a 
" cunjer-bag " containing " small roots about an inch long, some 
black hair, a piece of snake skin, and some yaller graveyard dirt, 
dark yaller, right off some coffin." 152 The number of effective 
combinations appears to be very large, but the following from 
Morotuck, Virginia, is recommended as especially powerful : " Take 
a bunch of hair or wool, a rabbit's paw, and a chicken gizzard, tie 
them up in a cotton rag and fasten the bundle to some implement 
which the man to be injured is in the habit of using." 153 

The ancient belief that the influence of the moon, now recognized 
as determining the tides, extends over all animal and vegetable life, 
accounts for the fact that Georgia witches, like the weird sisters in 
Macbeth, gather their herbs during certain phases of the moon. 

146 Cf. J. A. F.-L., v (1892), 182 (Pa.). 

"V. A. F.-L., vii (1894), 114. 

148 Cf. Black, op. cit., p. 184; Pop. Sci. Mo., xxxix (1891), 373 f. "If 
your right hand itches, spit in it and ruh it in your pocket; you are going 
to get some money" (So. Workman, xli (1912), 248). 

148 F. D. Bergen, Animal and Plant Lore, p. 17; J. A. F.-L., XX (1907), 
246 (N. C). 

180 So. Workman, xxix (1900), 443. 

361 J. A. F.-L., xrv (1901), 178. 

vj. A. F.-L., xin (1900), 228. 

163 J A. F.-L. x (1899), 241. For other combinations, see J. A. F.-L., 
ni, 206 (Ga.),'282 (Ala.); vii, 154 (Va.) ; am, 289; xni, 212 (La.); 
Century Mag., xxi (1885-86), 820. 



268 Witchcraft in North Carolina 

In some districts it is also held that " cunjer " should be laid down 
on the increase of the moon, so that it will " rise up and grow." 154 

»**J. A. F.-L., xm (1900), 228. Among the folk the phases of the moon 
are important for the success of many operations. In western North 
Carolina "all plants which produce fruit above ground must be planted 
in the light of the moon, not necessarily in a new moon; and all plants 
which produce fruit underground, potatoes and such, must be planted in 
the dark of the moon. Also the hogs must be killed in the dark of the 
moon, or the bacon and lard will shrink" (J. A. F.-L., xx (1907), 242). 
Plant seeds, make soap, kill meat, and wash and dye warp on the increase 
of the moon; otherwise your labor will be in vain. For evidence, see J. A. 
F.-L., vi (1893), 299 (Tenn.) ; vn, 305; xn, 265 (Ga.) ; x, 77 (Western 
Canada); x, 214 (Newfoundland); xn, 133 ((Southern Highlands); 
xxvi, 190 (Va. and Md.) ; xxvn, 245 (S. C.) ; F. D. Bergen, Current Super- 
stitions, 1896, 120 f. (Ala.), 157 (Pa.); Gummere, op. cit., 59 (Pa); and 
Kittredge, The Old Farmer, 305 f. (N. E.). Do not lay shingles in the 
dark of the moon (J. A. F.-L., xxvn, 245: S. C). See further the Chicago 
Tribune for May 4th, 1915, p. 1; The Folk-Lorist (Journal of the Chicago 
Folk-Lore Soc), I (1892), p. 56; Popular Treatises on Science Written 
during the Middle Ages, ed., Thomas Wright, London, 1841, p. 15. In the 
Cumberland Mountains a " fence worm " laid in the dark of the moon will 
sink into the ground (E. B. Miles, The Spirit of the Mountains, 106). An 
Old English astrological tract asserts that timber felled at the full moon 
will resist decay longest (Cockayne, Leeclidoms, m, 269). Cf. Soane, 
New Curiosities of Lit., p. 146. The following from Lincoln county, N. C, 
are communicated by Mr. Coon : " You should always plant potatoes in 
the dark of the moon, between new moon and full moon, so that the hills 
will be full. . . . You should plant onions when the point of the moon 
is turned downwards, so that the onions may grow large and not be all 
tops and seeds. ... In order that corn may ear well near the ground 
and not grow so tall, it must be planted when the little moon is turned 
down and on to the time when it is new. ... If you wish the color to 
be fast, the coloring should be done in the light of the moon, especially 
if a good fast blue [is] desired. . . . Every one should cut pine timber 
in the new moon and oak timber in the dark of the moon. Pine timber 
cut in the light of the moon will season well ; in the dark of the moon it will 
be soggy. Boards should be put on the roof ' in the little moon down,' to 

keep them [from] turning up toward the sun Hogs should be killed 

from the ' new to full moon ' in order to keep the meat from ' cooking 
away ' and in order that it [may] ' season ' well. Manure should be put 
on the fields between the new moon and the first quarter. If put on the 
field in the light of the moon, it would do little good. . . . Wheat should 
be ground in the dark of the moon in October, so that bugs and worms 
[will] remain clear of the flour and it [will] remain good for twelve 
months." On the importance of the moon in popular medicine, see Black, 
op. tit* pp. 124 fl\, 151. In the III. Med. Journ. for April, 1917, p. 270, 



Tom Peete Cross 269 

The practice of witchcraft and of popular medicine in the United 
States still preserves traces of an ancient and wide-spread super- 
stition which attributes magic properties to the human hand. 165 
Healing by the laying on of hands (familiar in the custom of 
touching for the King's Evil) or by contact with the hand of a 
corpse, depends ultimately on the belief that the mysterious powers 
of the human hand especially fit it for transferring disease. Dr. 

Dr. Beveridge writes, " I have been asked the time of the moon to wean 
a baby and have been compelled to confess my ignorance. A family once 
delayed a tonsillectomy. The father explained later that they waited for 
the dark of the moon to lessen hemorrhage." According to Dr. G. H. 
Macon, some North Carolina midwives still predict the date of their 
patients' delivery by the phases of the moon (Trans. Med. Soc. of N. C, 
Kaleigh, 1918, p. 217). 

It would be interesting to discover what traditions persist in North 
Carolina regarding the Man of the Signs, or the Moon's Man, the figure 
of a man surrounded by the twelve signs of the Zodiac which is still to 
be seen in many almanacks in circulation throughout the country districts. 
I think I have heard that in Orange County it is regarded as dangerous 
to castrate hogs except " when the signs are in the feet." Mr. Coon records 
several rules formerly observed in Lincoln County. Beans should be 
planted " in the sign of the ' scales,' so that the stalks will be weighted 
with beans." Cotton seed should also be planted " in the sign of the 
' scales,' so that the cotton will weigh heavily." Cucumber seeds should 
be sowed in the sign of the ' twins,' " so that the vines may produce twice 
as many cucumbers as otherwise." " Cabbage seed should be sowed in 
the sign of the ' head ' for obvious reasons." " Calves should be weaned 
in the sign of the fishes. At that time they will soon forget their mothers. 
If calves [are] weaned in the sign of the feet, they [will] not bawl and 
lament the loss of their mothers. Calves ought never to be weaned in the 
sign of the head." According to the Kalendar of Shepherdes, an early 
sixteenth-century English translation of a French compendium of scien- 
tific lore, " a man ought not to make incysyon ne touche with yren ye 
membre gouerned of any sygne the day that the mone is in it for fere of 
to grete effusyon of blode that myght happen, ne in lykewyse also when 
the sonne is in it, for the daunger & peryll that myght ensue." (Quoted 
by Kittredge, The Old Farmer, p. 53). Dr. J. M. Beveridge (III. Med. 
Journ., Apr., 1917, p. 270) is authority for the following: "A Minnesota 
doctor writes me that a woman would not allow an operation on her child 
till the sign of the zodiac pointed to the part of the body requiring the 
operation. ... I know a doctor who kept a record of the sign of the 
zodiac in which his obstetric cases occurred." 

185 On the general subject of the arm, hand, and finger in popular lore, see 
Karl Knortz, Der menschliche Kbrper in Sage, Branch u. Sprichwort, 
Wiirzburg, 1909, p. 141 ff.; Vergleichende Volksmedizin, n (1909), 877. 



270 Witchcraft in North Carolina 

Frank Baker, in a paper read on May 4, 1886, before the Anthro- 
pological Society of Washington (D. C), mentions a number of 
recent instances in which persons touched the hands of corpses in 
order to be healed of various disorders. 156 Among the mountain 
whites of the South witch-doctors still cure certain ailments by 
gently rubbing the part affected, at the same time repeating a 
meaningless formula. 157 " If a rapid cure is to be effected, inter- 
rupted pressure must be made with a hand in which a mole has 
been squeezed to death." 158 Alabama negroes believe that one of 
the ways to cure toothache is to place in the mouth the finger of a 
corpse. 159 A voodoo charm from Louisiana includes, along with a 
lock of hair from a dead natural child, a powder made of " the 
little finger of a person who committed suicide " and other ingredi- 
ents, all to be wrapped in a piece of a shroud and placed under the 
victim's pillow. 160 Mrs. Fanny D. Bergen, in her book on Animal 
and Plant Lore (p. 78) asserts that in southern Georgia negroes 
still believe in the "hand of glory" (main de gloire) 161 — a grue- 
some appliance consisting of a human hand cut from the corpse of 

106 The paper appeared under the title, " Anthropological Notes on the 
Human Hand," in the American Anthoropologist, I ( 1888 ) , 51 ff. See 
further F. D. Bergen, Current Superstition, 131 f.; Black, Folk- Medicine, 
pp. 100 ff., 176; Karl Knortz, Zur amerikanischen Volkskunde, p. 30. 

367 A wizard who described his method of procedure to Mr. James Mooney, 
said that he rubbed the patient until he felt the disease enter at the tips 
of his fingers, then mount gradually to his arms, and so pass into his body. 
At first he could shake off the disease current from his fingers as one shakes 
drops of water from the hand, but as it became stronger it filled his whole 
body. When the sensation became unendurable, he rushed to the nearest 
stream and washed the contagion away. " According to his own state- 
ment," says Mr. Mooney, " the ordeal always left him in an exhausted 
condition, and it seemed as if he himself really had faith in the operation." 
J. A. F.-L., n (1889), p. 102. Is it still believed anywhere in North Caro- 
lina that murder can be detected by the bleeding of the corpse at the touch 
of the guilty person? On the "ordeal by touch" in New England, see 
Kittredge, The Old Farmer, 74 ff. 

m J. A. F.-L., vii (1894), 111 f. Cf. rv, 326 (Pa.). 

m 8o. Workman, xxrs (1900), 443. 

■"J. A. F.L., xm (1900), 212. Compare the use of human bones by 
Georgia negroes as talismans against witchcraft (J. A. F.-L., xrv, 178). 

' m The name is a deformation by popular etymology of the Old French 
mandegore, originally mandragore, the mandrake, the root of which was 
anciently used for narcotic, aphrodisiac, and magical purposes. (N. E. 
D., s. v. "hand of glory.") Cf. Vergl. Volksmedizin, I (1908), 16 ff. 



Tom Peete Cross 271 

a criminal and used as a candlestick by malefactors during the 
Middle Ages. 162 According to popular belief the " hand of glory " 
casts into a stupor those in whose presence it is lighted. The 
subject has found literary treatment in Harrison Ainsworth's 
RooTcwood, Scott's Antiquary (chap, xvii), Barham's Ingoldsby 
Legends (The Nurse's Story), and Southey's Thalaba (bk. v). 163 
A generation ago, says Dr. Baker, " detached portions of the dead 
hand were quite commonly used among the illiterate classes for 
some supposed lucky influence that they bring." As lately as the 
winter of 1885-6 a janitor in the Georgetown Medical College stole 
from the dissecting room a human hand, which he later presented 
to his paramour, a dissolute Southern woman of the poorer class. 
The woman said she expected to use the gift " for luck and to find 
money and treasure with." 164 

M The candles generally contained as one of their ingredients grease 
distilled from corpses. Cf. Black, Folk-Medicine, 98; St. John D. Seymour, 
Irish Witchcraft and Demonology, 27; Grimm, Deut. Mythol., n, 898, n. 1. 
Qy. : have witches in the South ever heen charged with digging up bodies 
for purposes of sorcery? The practise was legislated against under James 
I (Kittredge, Proc. Am. Ant. Soc, xvrn (1907), 7, n. 4). iCf. Dal ton, 
op. cit., p. 276. The statute is quoted by Ashton, op. cit., p. 137 f. During 
the great period of witchcraft prosecutions in Western Europe witches 
were accused of sacrificing their children to the devil (Scot, op. cit., 
p. 25), of eating human flesh {op. cit., p. 26), and of boiling corpses to 
make grease "whereby they ride in the aire" (op. cit., p. 32). In 1590 
a iScottish witch confessed that she and other persons had been commanded 
by the devil to dig up three dead bodies and use parts of them " to make 
a powder ... to do evil with" (Sadduc. Triumph., p. 399). The voodoo 
doctors of the West Indies, especially Haiti, have often been charged with 
murdering infants for purposes of witchcraft. See Am. Anthrop., I 
(1888), 288 f.; H. Prichard, Where Black Rules White, N. Y., 1900, 74 ff.; 
So. Workman, xxxvi, 401 ff. ; Folk-Lore, xxvi (1915), 255. The New York 
World Magazine for September 20th, 1908, contains an account of how 
during August of the same year a negro in Havana, Cuba, stole a white 
child for the purpose of procuring its heart and blood, "which had been 
prescribed by witches as medicine for his mother." On the general subject 
of voodoo, see F. D. Bergen, Animal and Plant Lore, p. 126 f. It is said 
that apothecaries still receive inquiries for human oil to be used for medi- 
cinal purposes (Karl Knortz, Zur amerikanischen Yolkskunde, p. 24). 

183 See also H. M. Eideout's story in the Sat. Eve. Post for June 26th, 
1915. 

1M Mr. T. J. Westropp (Lolk-Lore, xxn (1911), 340) reports a recent 
"case of stirring (bewitched) butter with a dried human hand" in order 
to make it come. The events are said to have taken place in Ireland. 



272 Witchcraft in North Carolina 

An extension of the same general belief makes it lucky to carry 
the forepaw of an animal. A rabbit's foot carried about the person 
is a well-known talisman to insure good luck. A recent communi- 
cation to the North Carolina Folk-Lore Society recommends the 
right hind foot, but the more common opinion seems to be that the 
left hind foot has the greater power. The rabbit should be one that 
frequents a graveyard, 165 or should be caught under a gallows. 
If the charm is to be most effective, the foot should be cut from 
the living animal, the rabbit should be released, and the foot 
should then be be dipped (three times?) in "stump-water" (at 
midnight?) 166 In 1886 the poor whites of North Carolina believed 
that a mole's paw, cut from the living animal, was especially effica- 
cious in bringing good luck, 167 and today in North Carolina a 
child who wears a mole's paw around its neck will not be sick while 
teething. 

Witches have long been accused of eating corpses or of using 
them otherwise in their profession. A shocking negro story from 
Guilford County, North Carolina, tells of a woman who refused 
to eat with her husband and who was subsequently discovered to 
be a devourer of dead bodies. At night, when her husband was 
asleep, "she would slip out . . . an' go out to de graveyards. 
An' one day, when they had a buryin', he decided to watch her. 
That night, when she got up an' got dressed an' went out, he 
dressed an' went out behin'. He hid behin' a bush. She would 
dig up that body an' cut off slashes of 'em jus' like meat, an' eat 
'em." Thereupon the husband slipped quietly back to bed. When 

168 P. D. Bergen, Animal and Plant Lore, p. 12. Cf. J. A. F.-L., xn 
(1899), 261 (Ga.). According to certain classical authorities whose 
works found their way into Old English, parts of some animals used as 
cures are effective only when cut from the living hody (Cockayne, Leech- 
doms, i, pp. xvi, xviii, xxix, 327 f.). A communication from eastern North 
Carolina recommends a live frog cut in half and applied to the wound as 
a cure for the hite of a mad dog. For pains in the joints an English 
prescription directs that a toad be tied belly downwards on the affected 
part (Richard Blakeborough, Wit, Character, Folklore and Customs of 
the North Biding of Yorkshire, Saltburn-by-the-iSea, 1911, p. 130). Accord- 
ing to a belief still prevalent in some parts of Illinois thrush may be cured 
by placing a live minnow or small frog in the mouth of the patient (III. 
Med. Journ., Apr., 1917, 269). 

*Cf. J. A. F.-L., n (1889), 100. 

"" Am. Anthrop., I, 54. 



Tom Peete Cross 273 

accused of her action, the woman beat her husband severely and 
disappeared. " An' she was gone, an' never was foun' any mo'. " 168 
In one of the Lancashire trials of 1612 a witness told the court 
that she had seen two witches dig up the body of a child and 
afterwards cook and eat it. 169 

Though the use of corpses is less common in modern than in 
ancient witchcraft, witches of the present day, especially among 
the negroes of the South, have great faith in the baneful effects of 
" graveyard dirt." According to a negro superstition current in 
Georgia, the soil, to be effective, must be taken from the grave one 
day after the funeral. 170 It is, however, carefully guarded by the 
" hants," and even witch-doctors can get it only by the use of 
charms. 171 When placed on the ground, it has the peculiar prop- 
erty of working its way down to the same depth as the lid of the 
coffin from which it was taken. A Georgia negro who had been 
made ill by graveyard dirt placed under his house, took out as 
much as he could get at and burned it ; but some he couldn't reach, 
as it kept sinking into the ground. 172 

The elf -shot, so deadly to man and beast during the Middle Ages, 
finds a close parallel in the missiles used by the modern witch. 173 
Among the white population of the Alleghany Mountains witches 
kill cattle by shooting them with balls of hair, 174 and in western 
Maryland " witches' bullets " of pith or hair are often found in 
the bodies of dead animals. 175 Mr. Coon reports that a century 

148 J. A. F.-L., xxx, 187. In three other stories from Guilford County a 
mother kills and cooks her child (Ibid., 196 f.). 

*» Wright, Narratives, n, 129. 

170 J. A. F.-L., xiv (1901), 180. Cf. Black, Folk-Medicine, 95 ff. In Eng- 
land certain plants used in the preparation of home-made remedies, should 
be gathered from a grave (E. M. Wright, Rustic Speech and Folk-Lore, 
Ox. Univ. Press, 1913, p. 235). 

in J. A. F.-L., xm (1900), 228. 

173 J. A. F.-L., xrv (1901), 176; cf. in (1890), 284 f. According to an 
ante-bellum tradition from Alabama, dogs cannot track you if you put 
graveyard dirt in your shoes (So. Workman, xxxni (1904), 52). 

173 In country districts of the British Isles prehistoric flint weapons are 
believed to be elf-shots, and water into which a stone celt or arrow-head 
has been dipped, is used as a remedy for elf-shotten cattle or persons. 
Cf. E. M. Wright, Rustic Speech, 235; WoodMartin, Traces of the Elder 
Faiths, I, p. 41 f. 

174 J A. F.L., vn (1894), 114. Cf. Glanvill, Sadduc. Triumph., 398. 
™J. A. F.-L., xrv (1901), 42. 



274 Witchcraft in North Carolina 

ago in Lincoln County, North Carolina, witches shot their missiles 
mostly by night and that " the slightest touch of the breath of 
those swift flying balls resulted in loss of youth and physical 
strength." According to an ancient belief worms in men and 
beasts are elfish demons/ 76 and it is well known that modern 
witches can " throw " lizards and other vermin into the bodies 
of their victims. A mixture used by witches in Georgia consists 
of dried snakes, " scorpions," " ground-puppies," and " toad-frogs " 
reduced to a powder. When this preparation is taken internally, 
the " varmints " come to life and devour the body. 177 In one case 
a conjure-doctor, employed to remove a spell of this kind, took 
from a man's leg a lizard and a grasshopper. 178 

A considerable number of witch-spells and counter-charms are 
justified by the wide-spread popular belief that reversal in process 
involves reversal in result; if doing a thing one way works good, 
doing it the opposite way produces evil. Thus Christian symbols 
and formulae, so often employed against witchcraft, 179 are used in 

1Ta Grimm, Beat. Mythol., n, 965 f. iCf. J. A. F.-L., xxn (1909), 217. 
During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries bewitched persons some- 
times vomited pins, needles, wool, straw, cotton yarn, feathers, and even 
buttons. For instances, see Scot, Disc, of Witchcraft, p. 106; Glanvill, 
Sadduc. Triumph., p. 315; Wright, Narratives, n, 133. According to Dal- 
ton {op. cit., p. 278), such vomiting is an evidence of being bewitched. 

1TT J. A. F.L., xrv (1901), 180. The following note, hitherto unpub- 
lished, is found in the Bodleian manuscript, dough Ireland 3 (p. 25b), 
which contains " Notes of remarkable occurrences in Ireland, from about 
1731 to 1753, and of some curiosities there, by Edward Steele": "On the 
last Friday in April 1747, Mary Saunders, of Stronkelly, in the Barony 
of Coshbridge, in the County of Waterford, made Oath before William 
Smith of Hedborough, Esq; Justice of the Peace for that County, that she 
threw out of her Stomach, in Consequence of some Remedies, particularly 
a Vomit given her by Dominick Sarsefield, Esq; Doctor of Physick of 
Cork, a four footed Creature, about four Inches long, and one broad, dead, 
of a black Colour, resembling a small Water Bat, or Weasel, which she 
produced to him." 

* n J. A. F.-L., xm (1900), 228 i(Ga.-negro). A lame man in Chester- 
town, Md., said a snake had been conjured into his leg {J. A. F.-L., in 
(1890), 285). An Atlanta (Ga.) negro was terrified because he believed 
his vitals had been set on fire (J. A. F.-L., m, 281). Cf. J. A. F.-L., I, 83; 
V, 123 (Ark.); K, 2251 

"•The sign of the cross is, of course, a familiar means of averting evil. 
See F. D. Bergen, Animal and Plant Lore, p. 17; J. A. F.-L., XX (1907); 
246; and p. 267, n. 149, above. For other uses of the cross in Christian 



Tom Peete Cross 275 

reverse order by the witches themselves. For example, in Alabama 
witches conjure by saying the Lord's Prayer backwards. 180 On the 
Eastern Shore of Maryland reading the Bible forwards, very prop- 
erly prevents injury from ghosts after they have got into the house, 
but, strange to say, reading it backwards prevents them from 

formulae and in charms against witchcraft, see J. A. F.-L., iv, 324 f . ; 
xvir, 127 f. (Pa.) ; xiv, 178 (Ga.). If you sleep with a hible under your 
head, witches will not disturb you (J. A. F.-L., ix, 129 f. : S. C.-negro). 
Among the mountain whites of the Alleghanies a bible is used by witch- 
doctors in discovering thieves (J. A. F.-L., vn, 113). In the sixteenth 
and seventeenth centuries persons suspected of witchcraft were sometimes 
weighed against a bible. For an American case, see J. A. F.-L., v, 149 f.; 
(cf. n, 32) but contrast Gummere, op. cit., p. 55. Occasionally quacks 
or ignorant dabblers in the black art use Christian words and symbols in 
their practice. For cases in point, see J. A. F.-L., i (1888), 138 f.; m, 
284 f . ; Black, Folk-Medicine, p. 83. Compare the crossed feathers in the 
voodoo charm described in the Century Mag., xxi, 820. For an early 
instance, see Sadduc. Triumph., 398. Lawson saw an Indian conjurer use 
the sign of the cross (op. cit., p. 129). 

1180 F. D. Bergen, Animal and Plant Lore, 127. Reciting a verse of Scrip- 
ture backwards forms part of a charm for summoning Satan given in the 
J. A. F.-L., xxv (1912), 134. According to an English belief current dur- 
ing the seventeenth century, a witch cannot say the Lord's Prayer 
(Sadduc. Triumph., 317). Cf. E. L. Linton, Witch Stories, London, 1861, 
p. 381. 

Cabalistic signs, abracadabra, and scraps of foreign languages, especially 
Latin and Greek, have long been used by dabblers in magic. A corruption 
of the well-known word-square, 

S A T O R 
A R E P O 
TENET 
OPERA 
ROTAS 

is said to have been in use not long since among the witch-doctors of the 
Alleghany Mountains (J. A. F.-L., vei (1894), 113). The form communi- 
cated to Mr. Porter by a mountain conjurer omits the word opera. The 
formula is correctly given in "The Long Hidden Friend" (J. A. F.-L., 
xvil, 127), a reprint of a vulgar treatise on occult lore long current in 
German Pennsylvania, and in the dissertation on Anglo-Saxon charms 
published in the same journal (xxn, 113). See further F. T. Elworthy, 
The Evil Eye, 401, where it is said to be used with the Lord's Prayer to 
heal the bite of a mad dog. On magic writings as remedies, see Black, 
Folk- Medicine, p. 165 ff. 



276 Witchcraft in North Carolina 

entering. 181 The negroes of central Georgia say that if a rabbit 
crosses the road ahead of you, you should not only cross yourself, 
at the same time making a cross on the ground and spitting in it, 
but also walk backwards over the spot where the rabbit's path 
intersects your own. 182 A similar tradition prevails among the 
negroes of Virginia and Maryland. 183 Unless soft soap and baking 
mixtures are stirred continually in the same direction, they will 
not be successful. It may be added that the direction, even when 
not indicated (as in a case from North Carolina), 184 is probably 
not a matter of indifference. 185 In versions of the superstition 
current in several other states the proper direction is " with the 
sun " 186 — perhaps a survival of the dextral, or sunwise, circuit so 
common in certain savage rites. 

In some cases merely turning an article of clothing inside out 
serves to avert the witch's spell, the popular notion apparently 
being that the changed appearance prevents the witch from recog- 
nizing her victim. In western North Carolina those disturbed by 
nightmare drive away the troublesome visitor by getting out of bed 
and turning their shoes over. 187 It is a matter of common knowl- 
edge that turning the stockings inside out before retiring prevents 
disturbance from witches. In central Georgia negroes keep away 
spirits and witches by wearing their coats inside out. 188 

181 J. A. F.-L., ii (1889), 298, n. 2. Cf. F. D. Bergen, Animal and Plant 
Lore, p. 15. 

"V. A. F.-L., xii (1899), 262. Of. So. Workman, xuc (1912), 246. 

143 J. A. F.-L., xxvi (1913), 190. 

»*J. A. F.-L., XX (1907), 243. 

"^Scot (Disc, of Witchcraft, p. 163) quotes Plutarch to the effect that 
the unlucky side from which to receive an augury, is the right, "because 
terrene and mortall things are opposite & contrarie to divine and heavenlie 
things, for that which the gods deliver with the right hand, falleth to our 
left side; and so contrariwise." 

""F. D. Bergen, "Survivals of Sun-Worship," Pop. Sci. Mo., xlvh 
(1895), 249 ff.; Current Superstitions, pp. 123, 158 f. 

™ J. A. F.-L., v (1892), 115. In the vicinity of Zionville, North Carolina, 
putting on a garment wrong side out in the morning -is regarded as a por- 
tent of ill luck for the day. If a woman unwittingly puts on her dress 
inside out, she will have good luck inside of twelve hours (Karl Knortz, 
Zur amerikanischen Volkskunde, Tubingen, 1905, p. 5 ) . So in some sec- 
tions of the Carolina mountains (J. A. F.-L., n, 101). 

vj. A. F.-L., xn (1899), 261. Cf. xvn, 108 (Pa.). To stop a screech- 
owl from hollo'ing, turn the pocket inside out (So. Workman, xxxm 
[1904], 51; F. D. Bergen, Animal and Plant Lore, p. 20: Ala.-negro) ; or 



Tom Peete Cross 277 

The story of Phoebe "Ward, given above, illustrates one of the 
witch's oldest and most firmly established powers. Like the striga 
of classical tradition and the Raging Host of Germanic folk-lore, 
the modern hag can fly through the air. 189 That the power of 
levitation was also attributed to the Indian medicine-men of North 
Carolina during the early eighteenth century, is shown by the 
following statement made by Lawson on the authority of eye- 
witnesses : " They [the witnesses] have seen [a Chowan conjurer] 
take a reed about two foot long in his mouth, and stand by a Creek- 
Side, where he called twice or thrice with the Eeed in his mouth, 
and at last, has opened his Arms and fleed over the Creek, which 
might be near a quarter of a Mile wide or more." 18 ° From the 
data at hand it appears that in the South, at least among the negro 
population, the familiar tradition that witches ride broom-sticks 
on their midnight excursions, exists more as a sophisticated than 
as a genuinely popular superstition. 191 The witch's mount is most 
frequently an animal — either a beast sans phrase or a transformed 
human being. 192 As Mr. Stephenson's story shows, the witch's 
flight is facilitated by the utterance of a magic formula 193 and is 

turn the pockets and set the shoes upside down (J. A. F.-L., va (1894), 
305: Ga.). On superstitions connected with turning the garments, see 
further Karl Knortz, Amerikanischer Aberglaube der Gegenwart, p. 25. 

'"'•For other recent instances, see J. A. F.-L., n (1889), 292 (N. H.) ; 
x, 240 f.; xii, 68 (Md.-negro) ; xrv, 40; xxvn, 306 f. (N. Y.). For earlier 
evidence, see Grimm, Deut. Mythol., n, 878 f. Cf. Thomas Ady, A Candle 
in the Dark, London, 1656, 108; Remains Historical and Literary of the 
Palatine Counties of Lancaster and Chester (Chetham Soc), 1845; passim; 
The Witches of Northamptonshire, London, 1612 (in a collection of 
reprints of early tracts in the Harvard College Library ) . 

190 Op. cit., p. 129. Cf. Brickell, op. cit., p. 375. For another Indian story 
involving levitation, see Am. Anthrop., N. 6. ii ( 1909 ), 269 ff. 

m In 1663 a woman named Julian Cox, tried in Somersetshire (England) , 
said that she had once met three witches " upon three Broom-staves, born 
up about a yard and a half from the ground" (Sadduc. Triump., p. 328). 
A woman tried for witchcraft in Pennsylvania in 1683, confessed that she 
had ridden through the air on a broomstick (Gummere, op. cit., p. 39). 
In the sixteenth century witches were said to dance at their sabbaths with 
brooms held aloft in their hands (Scot, Disc, of Witchcraft, p. 32 f.). 

102 See below, p. 281, and the western Maryland story, J. A. F.-L., xiv 
(1901), 40 f. 

183 In 1664 the English witch Elizabeth Style confessed that while passing 
through the air, she and her confederates repeated a rigmarole somewhat 
like Phoebe Ward's rhyme (Sadduc. Triumph., p. 297). 



278 Witchcraft in North Carolina 

brought to a disastrous conclusion if she speaks while crossing a 
stream 194 — a fact which suggests the old belief about spirits' 
inability to cross running water and the well recognized power of 
the spoken word to counteract magic. 

The popular fear of witches on their nocturnal peregrinations 
is greatly enhanced by the fact that these night-flying terrors can 
enter a house through any small aperture such as a keyhole. 195 
The royal author of Daemonologie asserts that during the late six- 
teenth century witches believed themselves capable of 'piercing 
through whatsoeuer open the aire may enter in at/ 196 and the 
accusation against the Virginia witch Grace Sherwood in 1698 
that she had escaped from Anthony Barnes's house through " the 
Key hole or crack of the door," 197 is paralleled by similar charges 
brought against English and Continental witches during the two 
preceding centuries. 198 In a story from North Carolina received 
some years ago, a witch succeeded in getting into a house by utter- 
ing the words, " Through the key-hole I go ! " and in another 
account from the same district a witch's daughter who had been 
carried by her mother into a neighbor's house, broke the charm by 
speaking and was thus unable to escape. 199 The unwelcome visitor 
may also be captured if the hole is stopped, since " for witches this 
is law: where they have entered, there also they withdraw." This 
principle furnishes the rationale of a large group of stories in 
which witches are confused with swan-maidens and other captured 
fairy women, familiar in European folk-lore. The following is 
typical and should find parallels in North Carolina. A miller in 
Frederick County, Maryland, who was troubled with nightmare, 
decided that his nocturnal visitor was a witch and accordingly one 
night stopped the keyhole of his room. Next morning he found 
a beautiful girl cowering in the cupboard. After keeping the 

194 Compare the fate of the young man who spoke while riding a witch's 
calf in the New York story, J. A. F.L., xvn (1914), 30 ff. 

w Cf . Autobiography of Brantley York, p. 8 ; Scot, Disc, of Witchcraft, 
p. 8. Scot disbelieves the accounts of witches' " entering into men's houses, 
through chinks and little holes, where a flie can scarcely wring out " 
(p. 51). 

*• Edn. cit., p. 114. 

*" See above, p. 220, n. 9. | 

"•See, for example, Wright, Narratives, XX, pp. 116, 176. 

*• See above, p. 228, n. 20. 



Tom Peete Cross 279 

maiden for some time as a servant, he married her. For several 
years the captive remained a dutiful and apparently contented wife, 
but on discovering one day that the keyhole had been unstopped, 
she escaped. 200 In a large number of cases witches are accused of 
entering houses to steal, as in the following negro story from 
Guilford County, North Carolina. A man who was losing molasses 
out of his cellar watched one night outside the house to catch the 
thieves. Three witches appeared, and each, saying " In an' out 
I go," dropped her garments and went into the cellar. The man 
kept the clothes, and presumably caught the witches. 201 

Much of the trouble that witches cause on their nocturnal 
rambles results from the exercise of powers which they possess in 
common with two much dreaded visitants of old — the incubus and 
the vampire : the former a lascivious demon close kin to the night- 
mare, who sometimes pressed the sleeper to death ; 202 the latter a 
ghost or corpse (often of a suicide or murderer), who sucked the 
victim's blood till he died of exhaustion. 203 During the Dark and 

** J. A. F.L., xiv ( 1901 ) , 40. Cf. vol. xix, 243. 

101 J. A. F.L., xxx (1917), 188. 

1(0 The tendency to attribute to witches characteristics of the succubus 
is also of long standing. See Scot, Disc, of Witchcraft, pp. 8, 81. The 
witches themselves were formerly accused of having sexual relations with 
an incubus or even with the devil (lOf. Scot, op. cit., p. 26 ff.). Soot 
asserts that in his day it was a universally accepted belief among authori- 
ties on witches that " the divell plaieth Succubus to the man, and carrieth 
from him the seed of generation, which he delivereth as Incubus to the 
woman, who manie times that waie is gotten with child; which will verie 
naturallie (they saie) become a witch, and such a one they affirme Merline 
was" (p. 56). Robin Goodfellow was also the son of an incubus and a 
mortal maid (Percy Soc, n, 6ff. ). On the incubus doctrine, see Cockayne, 
Leechdoms, I, xxxiii ff. 

303 The folk-lore of the Southern States still contains traces of the belief 
that the dead may return to injure the living. The negroes of the South 
Carolina coast sometimes drive a stake through a grave " to keep the 
spirits from haunting," and it is said that among the negroes of Norfolk, 
Virginia, the position of the door-knobs is changed after a death, " that the 
ghost may not find his way in" (F. D. Bergen, Animal and Plant Lore, 
p. 15). Successive deaths in the same family from consumption, poor 
sanitation, or other causes, are sometimes attributed to the work of 
vampires. The following is current among the Geechee negroes along the 
coasts of South Carolina and Georgia : " If you cannot raise your children, 
bury on its face the last one to die and those coming after will live " 
(So. Workman, xxxiv [1905], 634). See further J. A. F.-L., rv, (1891), 



280 Witchcraft in North Carolina 

Middle Ages the incubus was much given to dishonoring mortal 
women in their sleep, and it is still known in southeastern Virginia 
that male witches sometimes visit their neighbors' wives at night. 
According to a sixteenth-century belief, the devil can assume the 
likeness of female witches and take their places in bed beside their 
husbands while the women themselves are absent on some diabolical 
errand. Vampire-like witches are still found in some parts of the 
United States. For example, in Clinton County, Pennsylvania, 
children who are hag-ridden at night are found in the morning 
"bruised on the chest and sore, with nipples bleeding from 
sucking." 20 * Human beings are, of course, often " ridden " by 
witches, and it is recorded that a girl in one of the mountain dis- 
tricts of the South was " pressed to death " by a witch who came 
night after night in the form of a black cat and sat on her chest. 206 

253; Karl Knortz, Der menschliche Korper, p. 199; and p. 241, n. 60, of 
this paper. The theory that corpses do not always rest easy is, of course, 
strengthened by the numerous more or less authentic instances of bodies 
interred before the complete extinction of life. The following story, told 
by Col. Jas. G. Burr in an address delivered at Wilmington, North Carolina, 
in 1890, is said to be vouched for by persons of unimpeachable veracity. 
Two young gentlemen of Wilmington agreed that whichever died first 
should return to visit the other. Not long afterward one of them was 
killed by a fall from his horse. A few days after the funeral the survivor 
received a visit from his deceased friend. The latter revealed the fact that 
he had been buried alive, and added, "Open the coffin and you will see I 
am not lying in the position in which you placed me." The body was 
disinterred and was discovered to be lying on its face. (James Sprunt 
Historical Monographs (Univ. of N. C), 4 [1904], 130 ff.). Dr. J. E. West, 
who was drowned while trying to ford the Tuckaseegee River at Bear Ford 
on March 19, 1881, appeared after a fortnight to the mother of one of his 
patients, told her where to find the body, and so impressed upon her the 
necessity of recovering the remains, that she dispatched a search-party in 
accordance with the directions given by the drowned man. The " corpse 
was found in the precise place she had pointed out to them." J. P. Arthur 
{op. tit., p. 338), citing a personal letter from Colonel D. K. Collins. Most 
ghosts of today apparently have no purpose ; this was one of those " robust 
and earnest ghosts of our ancestors " spoken of with such respect by 
Andrew Lang, whose admirable Book of Dreams and Ghosts should be 
consulted for a large collection of authentic cases. 

201 J. A. F.-L., rv (1891), 324. Cf. So. Workman, XL, 587. For a seven- 
teenth century case of a demoniacal creature which sucked a girl's blood 
through her nipples, see Fairfax, Daemonologia, edn. tit., p. 46. 

* 05 J. A. F.-L., vii (1894), 114 f. About 1678 a girl in Lincolnshire, Eng., 
had a somewhat similar experience (Sadduc. Triumph., p. 425). Compare 



Tom Peete Cross 281 

Sometimes the witch, by means of a magic bridle, transforms the 
sleeper into a horse, and then rides the animal until dawn. Next 
morning the bewitched person finds his toes and fingers covered 
with dirt, his limbs scratched, and his strength exhausted. 206 
A story from southeastern Virginia tells of a man who, when he 
was about to be ridden by a witch, seized the bridle and forced it 
into the hag's mouth. The woman began to shift her shape rapidly 
in order to terrify her victim into relaxing his hold, but in the 
end was severely beaten. In Lincoln County, North Carolina, 
the witch's mount, instead of being a transformed human being, 
is an ordinary horse. The following day the animal is restive and 
fatigued, and t/he tangles in its mane, known as " witch-stirrups," 
are evidence of the use to which it has been put. 207 

the Maryland story, J. A. F.-L., xiv, p. 39. Cats sometimes suck the breath 
of sleeping children (See above, p. 234). 

208 See the testimony of the Rev. Brantley York, Autobiography, p. 8. 
For more recent evidence, see J. A. F.-L., XV (1902), 273 (Va.) ; n, pp. 32 
(Pa.), 292 (N. H.) ; xxiv, 320 (Knott Co., Ky.). Professor E. C. Perrow, 
who was born in Virginia, writes that his grandfather, Joseph Graham, 
" knew a man who was ridden at night by witches. They bridled him and 
rode him to dances. They tied him outside where he could see the lights 
and hear the fiddles. He showed briars in his hand next morning from the 
briar patches through which he had been ridden." Cf. Notestein, op. cit., 
97 f. In a story from Lehigh Co., Pa., a witch transforms certain girls 
into snakes (J. A. F.-L., n, 33). The following story was told in 1915 to 
Mr. Thomas Smith by Mrs. Peggy Perry, seventy-six years of age. A 
woman living in the " Breshy " district of North Carolina " got somethin' 
the matter with 'er, so's she went 'round bawlin' jist like a cow, and her 
little gal went 'round after her a-bawlin' jist like a calf. Ever'body said 
they wuz bewitched and I've heerd who they said bewitched 'em, but I'd 
ruther not tell who it wuz, fer, you see, there's some o' his folks a-livin' 
'round not fur off and they'd like as not git mad at me fer tellin' sich 
things. Well, the little gal finally died and they buried her in the yard 
right back o' the house, and some o' the neighbors, seein' as the pore woman 
didn't git any better — she wouldn't talk, but kep' bawlin' all the time like 
a cow — them neighbors went and sent fer old Keller, who wuz a witch- 
doctor. She got better right straight after old Keller come to see her. I 
dont know how he done, but he shore on-witched her." For a similar story 
from Kentucky, see Karl Knortz, Zur amerikanischen Volkskunde, 
Tubingen, 1905, p. 36. 

207 For examples, see J. A. F.-L., vii (1894), 114 (Alleghany Mountains — 
white) ; iv, 324 (Pa.) ; xvn, 247 (S. C.-negro). Cf. F. D. Bergen, Animal 
and Plant Lore, p. 82. In County Clare, Ireland, fairies ride the farm- 
horses at night {Folk-Lore, xxh [1911], 449). During the Middle Ages 
fairies often rode on horseback. Cf. Mod. Phil., xii (1915), 631, n. 2. 



282 Witchcraft in North Carolina 

The witch's goal on her midnight rides is often an assembly like 
the one at which Tarn O'Shanter assisted. 208 Among the mountain 
whites of the Alleghanies witches are powerless on Friday, but on 
that day can hear everything their enemies say against them. 209 

Of the numerous devices for keeping witches out of a house, 
many may be classified under a heading known to students of 
folk-lore as the "Impossible Task." In ancient Greek, Eoman, 
and Oriental tradition malignant spirits who happened to fall 
under the power of mortals, were sometimes required to weave 
ropes of sand or perform similar feats. 210 Today the North 
Carolina mountaineer, when bedeviled by witches, hangs a sifter 
over the keyhole, 211 for he knews that the hag, before entering, 
will have to count all the meshes in the sifter, a computation she 

208 J. A. F.-L., xni (1900), 210 (Scott Co., Tenn.) ; xiv, 39 (Md.-white). 
In former times witch meetings, or salbbaths, were accompanied by revolting 
and indecent rites (Cf. Scot, op. tit., p. 32 f.), and modern voodoo wor- 
shipers are charged with similar practices. 

804 J. A. F.-L., vn (1894), 11. In the sixteenth century it was believed 
that witches confess more readily on Friday (Scot, op. tit., p. 24). The 
sect of mediaeval heretics known as the Eutychians were said to hold their 
orgies on Good Friday night (Scot, op. tit., p. 34). Though the bad reputa- 
tion of Friday was doubtless enhanced by the tradition that Christ was 
crucified and that Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit on that day, the 
superstition of unlucky days extends far back into pagan times. See R. M. 
Lawrence, The Magic of the Horse-Shoe, p. 258 ff. Cf. Eliphas Levi, The 
History of Magio, trans., A. E. Waite, London, 1913, p. 159; Chambers, 
Book of Days, I (1886), 42. Friday is still regarded as unlucky. "Friday 
is always either the fairest or the foulest day of the week " ( Cumberland 
Mountains ; E. B. Miles, op. tit., p. 107 ) . It is bad luck to plant seeds on 
" Rotten " Saturday — the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sun- 
day; seeds sowed on that day will rot in the ground. (Formerly current 
in parts of Lincoln County : Mr. Coon ) . 

210 Cf. J. A. F.-L., xn (1899), 69 1; xvn, 126. 

211 Collectanea of the N. C. F.-L., Soc. For early charms and precautions 
against nightmare, see Scot, op. tit., p. 69 f. The writer has heard that in 
southeastern Virginia turning the key sidewise in the keyhole will prevent 
the witch from entering and that a flax-hackle placed on the breast of the 
sleeper with the teeth up will injure her when she tries to mount, and so 
keep her from riding. ((Of. J. A. F.-L., xxn [1909], 252). It would be 
interesting to know whether North Carolina witches, like the fairies of 
European folk-lore, can be placated by placing pails of water (or milk) in 
the kitchen at night, as is the case in Maryland (Cf. F. D. Bergen, Animal 
and Plant Lore, p. 15) . 



Tom Peete Cross 283 

will be unable to complete before daylight arrives and forces her 
to leave. 212 In many sections, including the highlands of the 
South, a broom laid across the doorway is sufficient protection, 213 
the true explanation of its value being that offered in Maryland: 
the witch cannot enter until she has counted all the straws of 
which the broom is made. 214 In Louisiana any one who refuses 
to step over a broom is a witch. 215 The mountain people of western 
North Carolina say that it is bad luck to step over a broom. 216 
Another prescription recommends the sprinkling of mustard or 
other small seed in the four corners of the house; the hag, like 
the prince in the fairy tale, must pick up the seed one by one 
before she can be free. 217 The following negro version comes from 
Guilford County, North Carolina. " OF witch goin' from house to 
house. Too much work to do in one place. People throwed 
mustard-seed in her way. Had to pick up one by one bef o' she lef. 
' Here I am, where shall I hide myself ? ' Says, ' I'll never get in 
a place like that again. Bes' way to carry gol' an' silver with me. 
I've done foun' out they can't do anything with the mustard-seed 
while I carry the gol' an' silver.' After she got her gol' an' silver, 
she did go all right. Didn't have to pick up the seed." 218 

Another group of charms against witchcraft apparently depends 
ultimately upon the awe with which primitive man regarded the 
newly discovered metal iron. Other-world beings have always 

103 In Alabama the sifter is placed Trader the doorstep; in Chestertown, 
Md., over the door (Bergen, Animal and Plant Lore, p. 16). Cf. So. 
Workman, xli (1912), 246. In those Maryland prescriptions which direct 
that a fork be stuck through the sifter and that both be placed on the chest 
at night with the tines of the fork upwards, the function of the sifter has 
apparently been forgotten. Cf. J. A. F.-L., v (1892), 110 f.; xn, 145. 
According to a negro tradition from Baltimore, the impossibility of the 
computation is due to the fact that a witch cannot count above five 
(J. A. F.-L., xi, 76). 

**J. A. F.-L., vn (1894), 113 f. Cf. vol. iv, 126 (Ja.) ; xrv, 40 (Md.- 
white). 

** Ibid., xi (1898), 9. 

** Ibid., xvrn (1905), 230. Some Southern mountaineers say that any 
one who steps over a broom lying in a doorway is a witch. Cf. J. A. F.-L., 
Xir (1899), 132. 

™Ibid., xx (1907), 245. 

217 So Workman, 3X1, 246. 

m J. A. F.-L., xxx (1917), 188. 



284 Witchcraft in North Carolina 

shrunk from contact with iron. In a large number of folk-tales 
the beautiful fairy princess married to a mortal deserts her lover 
when he touches her, even accidentally, with a piece of metal, and 
the modern witch cannot enter a house on or above the door of 
which a horseshoe is nailed. 215 In the mountains of North Caro- 
lina it is lucky to find a horseshoe or a pin, 220 especially if the open- 
ing of the horseshoe or the point of the pin is directed toward the 
finder. Indeed, if you find a horseshoe and don't pick it up, you 
are liable to encounter misfortune. 221 The North Carolina house- 
wife whose butter will not come may heat a horseshoe and apply it 
to the bottom of the churn, or, if the witches are particularly 
troublesome, she may even have to put the metal in the churn. If a 
red hot poker is inserted in the receptacle containing bewitched 
butter or soft soap, the witch is burned and the spell broken. 222 In 
Alabama whoever sleeps with a fork under his pillow need not fear 
being " ridden " at night. 223 Some twenty years ago in Georgia 
iron nails placed in a black bottle and buried under the door-step 
would keep off witches. 224 

Next to iron, the most popular metal now in use as a preventive 
against witchcraft is silver. Eev. Brantley York reports that in 
his youth witches in Randolph County, North Carolina, could be 
killed with a silver bullet. The Southern . mountaineers of today 
believe that if an ox, fatally wounded with a hair-ball, is shot with 
a silver bullet, the witch will be injured. 225 In western Maryland 
shooting the hag's picture with a bullet made from a silver coin 

819 J. A. F.-L., xn (1899), 76 (Baltimore-negro). The value of the horse- 
shoe is here explained on the same principle as that of the sifter; the 
witch, before entering, must travel over the path the horseshoe has taken. 
For other instances of the use of the horseshoe to prevent witchcraft, see 
J. A. F.-L., iv, 255 (N. H.), 323 (Pa.) ; v, 182 (Pa.). On the horseshoe in 
folk-lore, see /. A. F.-L., ix, 288 ff.; R. M. Lawrence, The Magic of the 
Horse-Shoe, Boston and New York, 1898, p. 1 ff. ; Karl Knortz, Ameri- 
kanischer Aberglaube der Oegenwart, p. 31 ff. 

220 J. A. F.-L., xx (1907), 246. 

221 Collectanea of the N. C. F.-L. Soc. It is also bad luck to give away a 
pin in North Carolina. 

223 F. D. Bergen, Animal and Plant Lore, 21; J. A. F.-L., vn (1894) pp. 
66 f., 115 (Alleghany Mountains). 

224 F. D. Bergen, op. cit., 16; J. A. F.-L., xn (1899), 261 (Ga.). 
324 J. A. F.-L., v (1892), 230. 

225 J. A. F.-L., vn (1894), 114. 



Tom Peete Cross 285 

is an effective means of retaliation. 226 In Georgia ghosts are killed 
with silver bullets, and the use of silver nails and screws in making 
a coffin will prevent the corpse from haunting the scenes of its 
earthly life. 227 Silver money carried in the shoe or worn on a 
string around the neck is a well-known charm against witch 
spells, 228 and even the wearing of a silver ring is alleged to have 
a certain protective value. 229 The following story, told by a hunter 
in Edgecombe County, North Carolina, illustrates the necessity of 
using silver bullets in shooting uncanny creatures. 

Immediately after the Civil War there was a prevailing belief 
in Edgecombe County, that the low, boggy, heavily wooded district 
lying along Henrietta Creek was infested by witches. In spite of 
its bad reputation, however, the place was a famous hunting 
ground. One evening about sundown a hunter who had sat down 
to rest under a dead pine in the vicinity of the creek, was sur- 
prised to hear in the silence of the forest a mysterious tapping. 
Looking up he perceived near the top of the tree " what appeared 
to be a common woodpecker storing away food for the long, cold 
winter." After shooting at the bird without effect until his ammu- 
nition was exhausted, he cut a dime into small pieces, with which 
he loaded his gun and fired again. With a loud shriek the bird 
fell lifeless to the ground. " Ever since this occurrence," adds the 
narrator, "the people of Henrietta neighborhood believe that the 
only way to kill witches is to shoot them with silver." 

Another story, from Lincoln County, is told by Mr. Coon. A 
witch man once assumed the shape of a turkey gobbler, and perched 
himself on the limb of the high tree beside the path of a famous 
hunter. Not recognizing the witch under this form of disguise, 
the man shot twenty-nine rounds at the bird. "Every time his 
gun would fire, the witch turkey would stand erect on his perch, 
shake himself, and sit down again. Disgusted with his bad marks- 
manship, the woodsman went his way. Not far from the scene of 
his discomfiture the hunter met a friend and related to him his 

286 J. A. F.-L., xrv (1901), 42. Cf. vol. rv, pp. 126, 324 (Pa.); F. D. 
Bergen, op. cit., 15 (Ala.). 

m J. A. F.L., vn (1894), 305. 

— J. A. F.-L., xrv (1901), 179; xxrv, 320 (Knott Co., Ky.) ; rx, 226,; 
F. D. Bergen, Animal and Plant Lore, 15. Cf. J. A. F.-L., xn, 228 f. 

229 J. A. F.-L., ix (1896), 226. 



286 Witchcraft in North Carolina 

recent experience. His neighbor immediately pronounced the 
turkey a witch, and declared that it could be brought down only 
by a silver bullet. The hunter accordingly went home, and, after 
moulding a silver bullet, returned with his friend to the place 
where he had seen the witch. On their arrival, however, the bird 
flew away. Their suspicions were, nevertheless, confirmed by their 
encountering a few hundred yards off "a man who was famous 
all over the country as a witch of witches." 

The value of silver in dealing with the powers of darkness is 
illustrated by a clipping from the Winston-Salem Sentinel for 
February 16, 1915, for which the writer is indebted to Mr. G. T. 
Stephenson : 

" Jim Webster, a colored man who lives about six miles west of 
the city, believes in witches and wizards and hoodoos and all that 
sort of thing, and for forty years has carried a silver dollar in his 
mouth night and day, not to make his speech silvery but to keep 
away the hoodoo. 230 He keeps one dollar in his mouth until all 
the letters and figures are worn off, then he exchanges it for a new 
dollar. He says he is now wearing his fourth dollar. Jim thinks 
that as long as he carries that dollar in his mouth, witches and 
hoodoos have no power over him, so he works, eats and sleeps with 
it in his jaw. A large number of other colored people thinks (sic) 
the silver dollar in his mouth gives Jim some kind of hoodooistic 
powers, and they are rather shy of him." In a letter accompanying 
the article Mr. Stephenson writes : " I have talked with the negro 
and seen the dollar, and can vouch for the statements made in the 
clipping." 

No account of the preventives against witchcraft would be even 
approximately complete without at least a word about salt. Regi- 
nald Scot was repeating an old tradition when in 1584 he wrote, 
" The divell loveth no salt in his meate," 231 for salt has always 

"•Some conjure-doctors begin the diagnosis of a case of suspected witch- 
craft by placing a piece of silver in the patient's mouth. If the silver turns 
black, the patient is suffering from the effects of witchcraft (J. A. F.-L., 
IX [1896], 224). Cf. Karl Knortz, Amerikanischer Aberglaube der Gegen- 
wart, 9. Professor Perrow received the following cure for witch spells 
from his grandfather : " Take a brand new silver dollar. Trim off shavings 
from it with a knife. Put these in a cup, pour hot water over them and 
drink the water." 

2,1 Diacoverie of Witchcraft, 435. On the folk-lore of salt, see further 



Tom Peete Cross 287 

been used with great effect by the Christian church in putting to 
flight heathen divinities and other beings antagonistic to the people 
of God. In the sixteenth century judges presiding over witchcraft 
trials were urged to carry salt about their persons, 232 and today 
the mountaineers of the South know that salt worn in the shoe 
prevents " overlooking." 233 In western Maryland a witch is ren- 
dered powerless if salt is sprinkled under her chair, 234 and, as 
Harris's " Plantation Witch " shows, salt rubbed on a witch's skin 
after she has shed it, prevents a recurrence of the shape-shifting. 235 
Most people know that when salt is spilled, bad luck is sure to 
result unless a few grains are at once thrown over the left 
shoulder. 236 i 

University of Chicago. 

Note. — Further contributions will be gratefully received by the 
writer or by Professor Frank C. Brown, Secretary and Treasurer 
of the North Carolina Folk-Lore Society, Durham, North Carolina. 



Grimm, Deut. Mythol., n, 876 f . ; R. M. Lawrence, The Magic of the Horse- 
Shoe, p. 154 ff. 
"•Scot, op. cit., p. 23. 

233 J. A. F.-L., vn (1894), 114. Cf. F. D. Bergen, Current Superstitions, 
p. 82. In County Wexford, Ireland, peeled potatoes left on the hearth-stone 
for the fairies must not be salted (Mrs. S. C. Hall, Sketches of Irish Char- 
acter, N. Y., 1845, p. 268). Cf. Sir Walter Scott, Letters on Demonology 
and Witchcraft, p. 124 f. 

2,4 J. A. F.-L., xiv (1901), 40. 

284 Cf. J. A. F.-L., v, (1892), 110 f. (Md.) ; rx, 129 f. (IS. C). In a con- 
fused negro story from Guilford County, North Carolina, a thievish witch 
who shed her skin in order to enter a store is prevented from returning 
by red pepper. As soon as daylight strikes her, she drops dead (J. A. F.-L., 
xxx, 187 f.). Professor Perrow heard from his grandfather a story of a 
witch who used to slip out of her skin at night and go abroad. " Her 
husband watched her and cured her by putting salt and pepper on her skin 
while she was away one night." In the seventeenth century rosemary was 
used in England as a preventive against withcraft (Thomas Wright, Narra- 
tives, ii, 137 ) . A tradition from southeastern Virginia asserts that the 
plant was first brought to America by Grace Sherwood, the early eighteenth 
century witch. 

234 Cf. J. A. F.-L., XX (1907), 245 (N. C). 



CONTENTS C 



sadmau. J: 



in English 



The Myst< 



Foreword . . , 

W, J. Lawrem 

Joseph Quincy Adams. The Conventual Buildup 
friars, London, and the Playhouses Con 
Therein .;.._; 

Thornton Shirley Graves. " Playeng in the Dark" I 

the Elizabethan Period 

Tucker Brooke. Hamlet's Third Soliloquy 

John Matthews Manly. Cuts and Insertions 

speare's Plays ...•'.'.....'....../, 

Raymond Macdonald Aiden. The Lyrical Coi- 

Elizabethans 

Jefferson B. Fletcher. The Painter of the Po* 
Charles G. Osgood. Spenser's Sapience 
James Holly Hanford. The Bra aatic 
Lost 

Edwin Greenlaw. "A Better Teach; 

Kecent Literature. 

James Finch Koyster. "I'll tfot Trust the Prin ' 
Samuel A. Tannenbaum. Hamlet Pre] 
C.A.Moore. The Return to Nature 

the Eighteenth Century. ... 
Herbert Gushing Tolman. The '•: 

Crucifixion 

Clinton Walker Keyes. The Constituti tl Positio 
Roman Dictator: bip ........ . 

Elizabeth Breazeale. Hexarnei 

Lucretius, and Vergil 
Georcre Howe. Polvnto ™ m ' , Jl^'v 



University of Toront 
Library 



DO NOT 

REMOVE 

THE 

CARD 

FROM 

THIS 

POCKET 



Acme Library Card Pock< 
LOWE-MARTIN CO. "Mr 



X